Recreation can be a powerful tool for building bridges and connecting with our youth

Earlier this year we received an amazing donation and addition to the men’s Crisis Program, a brand-new top-of-the-line ping-pong table. It became a hit right away and it’s also where I first heard the term “Ping Pong Rally On”, which is the phrase we use to begin our pre-game rallies to see who goes first.  

One youth in particular became an avid player during his stay at Covenant House and our relationship grew as a result. I won our first several games that we had together, but I remember him saying that he was going to practice and would soon surpass me. Sure enough, months later, he did just that. We were neck-in-neck most of the time but overall, he won the majority of the games we played. 

Several times, I can remember going back and forth with him for over an hour at a time. Both of us would be dripping sweat by the time we were done and only stopping our games when I was needed elsewhere. From this experience, I’ve developed a deep respect for those who play ping-pong professionally, it’s far from easy! More importantly, it goes to show how powerful recreation can be when it comes to building bridges and connecting with the young people who step through the doors of Covenant House Vancouver. 

Before playing ping-pong with this young man, he didn’t open up to me—or anyone—about what was truly on his mind and in his heart. He’d make small talk most of the time but never really go into details about issues he was dealing with. The more we played however, the more he would open up with bits and pieces about his life outside of Covenant House and issues he was dealing with. Having an activity as a distraction allowed me to learn more about him and build our relationship in a positive way. 

Going forward, not only have I developed a new passion and pastime, I never pass up an opportunity to play a game (not just ping-pong) with our youth. Especially if they typically don’t join in on activities but suddenly show an interest in doing so. You never know where a simple game can lead to and how you’ll be able to positively impact someone’s life just by interacting with them in a new way.  

Shared by Youth Worker, Stephen at our Crisis Program