On November 29, 2015, Pierre St-Marie celebrated his two-year stay at the Booth Centre. When he moved there, he had just been released from hospital where he had spent 110 days. Today, he is in good health. Helping people in need through chess therapy program has been his motivational force.
In 2014, Mr. St-Marie set up a chess program in cooperation with The Salvation Army Booth Centre. The chest therapy, a proven program that was developed in France, can be compared to art or music therapy. With the assistance of caseworkers and residents of the Booth Centre, a wall chessboard was built. This allows Mr. St-Marie to teach chess strategy while ensuring that participants can visualize and understand his teachings.
The principle is simple. Offered over a one-year period, the program is divided into weekly lessons. Participants learn the game of chess while drawing a constant parallel with the vagaries of their life. In a game of chess as in life, one needs to think before making a move, take a step backwards in the face of adversity, anticipate challenges, and above all, know that it is not always possible to avoid obstacles. The chess program is accessible to all residents of the Booth Centre, including those struggling with addictions, mental health issues and aggressiveness. According to Mr. St-Marie, the program’s prospect for success depends of the involvement of the participants and the way they deal with their failures.
Mr. St-Marie has been teaching chess strategy for some 40 years and has been playing the game for 55 years. However, he does not pretend to train chess masters. He simply wants to help people overcome their problems. At the end of the program, the participants receive a certificate on which appears the coat of arms of Mr. St-Marie’s family. It is a simple but efficient way of acknowledging the efforts, improvements and perseverance of the participants.