When residents at The Salvation Army’s Waterston House in Regina sit down to play board games each week, there is more than a lot of roaring laughter and fierce competition. Every single game brings social, emotional and educational benefits to the vulnerable men who call Waterston House home.

Hope and Dignity

“I’m a super-social person who lives in a dorm room,” says Robert, 38. “Staying connected to others is important for my well-being. The honest conversations and shared experiences during games nights have really drawn us closer together."

Waterston House offers 40 supportive and independent-living apartments to vulnerable men for as long as they need.

"Waterston House strives to restore hope and dignity,” says Major Al Hoeft, Salvation Army  pastor and executive director. “Residents, many of whom struggle with anxiety and mental-health issues, have their own independence and safe space. We encourage them to succeed and provide a variety of supports with a focus on mental health.”

Life, Learning and Fun

Residents at Waterston House pooled their resources to buy board games.

Board games became popular during the 1930s as they allowed families and friends to spend time together without having to spend money. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they enjoyed a surge in popularity. At the height of the pandemic, residents at Waterston House purchased approximately 40 games that they share.

“I suffer with anxiety, depression, agoraphobia and PTSD,” says Andrew, 48, a participant. “Planning strategies and plotting my moves keeps me focused, and socialization is a much-needed distraction for me, even if only for a few hours.”

The activities of Waterston House are indicative that, in uncertain times like these, a lot of life, learning and fun can be found in a small box with some cards, a pair of dice and a board.

“It’s good to divert your focus from the everyday stresses of life,” says Andrew. “Being in the game room is important for me. I always leave our times together in a better frame of mind.”

Linda Leigh is manager of communications at The Salvation Army’s territorial headquarters in Toronto.

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