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Hands-On Outreach

by Sarah Handley

How old were you when you received your first professional massage?  Do you remember when you began to understand that massage not only feels pleasant, but can literally improve your health and well-being?  Learning that there are more ways to feel better than taking a pill is a powerful lesson.

Imagine what it must be like for people whose lives are tremendously difficult, who live in poverty, who cannot afford their choice of clean, healthy food, whose only experience with dealing with pain is either to bear it, or wait at a clinic at UVa for some drug therapy?

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Then, consider what it must be like to come into a clinic in your neighborhood to find a smiling face, someone who wants to know your name, listen to your story, sympathize with how you feel, and lay on knowledgeable, healing hands to help make things a little better?  This is how a healing community gets started.

Charlottesville has an abundance of healing arts opportunities. But not everyone can afford them or believes them to be in reach.  One of the primary reasons that Common Ground Healing Arts exists is to facilitate access to services such as massage therapy to those who are less able to afford them out on the market. We know the benefits to these therapies, and they can change lives. They can:

  • ease pain,
  • calm the nervous system,
  • improve circulation,
  • reduce stress,
  • facilitate ease of movement, and
  • create community.

Even before Common Ground opened as a part of the Jefferson School City Center, in 2012, a number of massage therapists joined the Guerrilla Yoga Project in its outreach to underserved communities.  We introduced weekly seated massage services to the residents of Westhaven, the public housing community behind Starr Hill on Hardy Drive.  The program was expanded in 2013 to include the residents of Crescent Hall. Common Ground supports this work by scheduling the massage therapists, providing the equipment and supplies, and keeping a record of our work there.

The clinic at Westhaven is from 10am to 12nn on Tuesdays and the Crescent Hall clinic is the same time on Wednesdays.  Seated massage is free and open to the public, so if you’re curious and want to stop by, please feel free.  If you’re a massage therapist who would like to participate, please let Sam Pierceall know at sam@commongroundcville.org.  And if you’d like to make a donation toward the outreach program, please click here:

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Sarah HandleySarah Handley is a native of the Shenandoah Valley and 1988 graduate of the College of William & Mary, Sarah Handley has worked for over twenty years in the healthcare industry, most recently in a private massage therapy practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trained in medical massage at the Virginia School of Massage—Winchester and The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Sarah is equally comfortable working bedside in a healthcare setting or in practice with healthy clientele. For more information about Sarah go to www.fireandwatercville.com.