Over the weekend we celebrated International Tea Day. Did you know that tea is the most popular beverage globally, with water coming in second?
Not only is tea a delicious and healthy beverage, but it’s also a way for us to break down barriers, bring people together, and create connections.
Since moving into our new home last summer at 1280 Seymour Street, we have been able to expand the art therapy program at Covenant House Vancouver. In addition to individual and group art therapy classes, we also offer four open studio sessions per week. These sessions are open for all youth to spend time with our art therapists exploring creativity, expressing themselves through art-making, and building a sense of community and belonging, all over a cup of tea.
Many of the youth that Covenant House Vancouver serves have experienced significant trauma; building trust can be difficult and this is a challenge that our staff often encounter. One of the principles of the open studio sessions is radical hospitality. Everyone is actively welcomed into the studio, art materials are introduced, and youth are invited to join in whatever ways they wish. The art therapists are mindful about how they set up the space, adjusting the lighting for youth whose senses are easily overstimulated. Youth can see the steam atop the teas steeping. Soft music plays in the background that is inviting and soothing. The calming smell of aromatherapy lingers in the air and there is a wonderful selection of teas, biscuits, cookies and snacks welcoming youth as they walk by.
Some youth may pop their heads in, and others may stay awhile. There is no expectation and youth can come and go in our open studio art spaces as they please.
Tea has become a ritual at the open studio art sessions and our collection has expanded and grown into a cabinet overflowing with every type of tea you can imagine. Orange pekoe, earl grey, mint, chai, orange, cinnamon, lemon zinger, spiced apple, cranberry pomegranate, and the list of flavours go on.
Tea (and snacks) is what brings the youth to our open studio art sessions, but the opportunity to express themselves through art, share stories, build connections, feel welcomed and feel like they belong, is what makes them stay and come back every week.
As youth join us each session, we offer them tea or coffee and youth frequently express their gratitude when we remember exactly how they like their tea. This act of welcome and kindness has become as important to many of the youth as the opportunity to make art.
Who knew tea could mean so much?