SCAD Creates a Space to Bring Hope to Union Mission's Mental Health Counseling Center

Staff Report

Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

Union Mission is pleased to announce a new collaboration with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) that will amplify and beautify Union Mission's Mental Health Counseling Center and the new Parker’s House: A Home for Women space.

SCAD alumnus Robin Maaya (B.F.A., photography, 2021) recently photographed several Union Mission clients to beautify the walls. The collection of 28 black and white images entitled “Mission of Mercy'' are about conveying a message of hope and authenticity. They portray the stories and lives of Savannahians and others served by Union Mission and SCAD SERVE, a university initiative devoted to inventing meaningful solutions in the areas of food, shelter, clothing, and the environment. 

“Working with Union Mission through SCAD SERVE was an incredible opportunity for me not only as an artist but now as a permanent resident of Savannah,” said Maaya. “I knew I loved Savannah and SCAD from the moment I arrived on campus five years ago, and now I have an even deeper love for both. Working with Union Mission and, more importantly, the clients, was an unforgettable experience. Each person’s willingness to share personal stories and allow me to photograph them at their most vulnerable is a testament to the strength and resilience of the people within our community. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to capture these stories and share them through photographs.  This experience has made me a better photographer and a better artist.” 

The photographs are located at Union Mission’s Mental Health Counseling wing and the new Learning Center at Parker’s House. Union Mission’s Mental Health Counseling Program addresses the community's need for low-cost access to mental health care for three primary populations: the homeless/at risk of homelessness, those returning to the community from incarceration, and uninsured/underinsured members from the community. In 2021, the program served 174 individuals and provided 980 individual sessions and 26 groups.

“The amazing decorating of the hallway is a burst of fresh air,” said Ricardo Villalobos, Union Mission’s Mental Health Counseling Program Manager. “It helps the hallway feel less institutional and adds a warm human flair. For the staff, it reminds us of why we work here and for our clients it is life affirming.” 

Upon seeing the hallway for the first time, a Union Mission client loudly said, “Oh my gosh, look at that, some of those pictures are of us. I recognize one of the women. It’s nice to have a reminder that we are works of art too.”

Union Mission and SCAD have a long legacy of collaboration. Since 1994 the university has generously donated toys, clothing, blankets, and other essential items to bring joy and hope to the men, women, and children who depend on Union Mission services.