On Sundays once a month since June 19, 2022, St Philip's hosts Tea and Talk for Ukrainian women and children who have fled Ukraine since April 2022. Tea & Talk celebrated Hallowe'en on Oct 29 by inviting the children to come in costume, granddad Vitalii came dressed as Super Mario, and we shared Ukrainian sweets. In the gym, one of the volunteers hosted her duaghter's class for her seventh birthday and the Ukrainian children mixed in with gusto.
Enjoy the photos.
Tea & Talk resumed in September after a break without gatherings in July & August. The plan is next to have a shared potluck December dinner to celebrate a Winter Feast.
Attendance is down since May 2023. Families have moved out of Dunbar as the mums have all found jobs, and they've moved out of one bedroom basement suites into larger flats or houses as more relatives joined them. Several mothers and mothers-in-law have arrived since June 2022, and babies have been born. The families are finding their way, settling into new neighbourhoods, and making friends.
The women have loved Tea & Talk, are keen to come back, and in 2022 new guests joined us each month. As the children play in the gym, the Ukrainian women, and eventually some husbands too, gather in the Fireside Room to talk over coffee, tea and treats. Volunteers, from St Philip's, from the neighbourhood, and from Vancouver Helps Ukrainians, lead the children in crafts and boisterous play in the gym, and serve the women so they are able to chat in the Fireside Room for a couple of hours while the kids play right across the hall. There is just enough separation, and just enough proximity, for both mothers and children to enjoy their afternoon in total security. Outreach has funded us enough budget to cover the refreshments and crafts. The photos help tell the story.
Gatherings will continue monthly if we have volunteers to help host and if Ukrainian guests still attend. If you'd like to help with providing baked goods and fruit, serving refreshments, doing kitchen duty, or playing in the gym, contact Debbie Matheson ([email protected]), or speak to Lorne or a warden. We'd love to have you! I am deeply grateful to the loyal volunteers who show up every month that they can to keep this event going. What a team! I give special thanks to the co-founder, Trisha Hilland.
On a lovely hot afternoon, Sunday May 14th 2023, we celebrated Mother's Day at Tea & Talk. We also welcomed two musicians, Bernadette and Tim Ma from Immaculate Conception Parish across the road, who volunteered to serenade our guests with guitar and violin. While the troubadours sang to the adults, some children played about in the gym and some made crafts: a three-ring circus as usual. Mums and some newly-arrived 20-something women relaxed in the Fireside Room over lemonade, ice cream cones, fruit and treats. One mother of two was thrilled to introduce her husband who has been able to join his family in Canada after over a year of separation. Anna, her daughter Sofia, and baby Aaron were there, having bussed all the way from White Rock, where they now live, to gather with their friends at Tea & Talk. These friendships have been life-lines for many of the mums who arrived alone with their children.
Our previous Tea & Talk event on the evening of April 16 was a potluck Easter Feast with about 40 people sharing dinner in the Fireside Room. Head colds and Covid kept two large families and others at home on the day, trimming the number of guests from 55 to about 40. We still had fun, the kids decorated Easter egg bags, we ate fabulous food, lounged over desserts while the children watched the film Peter Rabbit in the gym, and finished with an Easter egg hunt in the church. (See Olga's little Easter Egg Hunt video, below.) Not one egg was left behind between the hymn books! Not. One.
Attendance at Tea & Talk grew from June 2022 and into spring 2023. The largest group photo, from February 19, 2023, looks full but is missing lots of little boys who are still tearing around the gym until their mums drag them out the door. There are four thriving babies (three born in Canada since their mothers arrived from Ukraine) who will soon be on their feet, and one who's already stomping around the gym.
On Saturday Dec 10th, at a Winter Feast, the families who attend Tea and Talk gathered with other Ukrainian friends and Canadian host volunteers to break bread together in celebration of new friendships. Over 55 people shared a fabulous buffet in the Fireside Room, from pirogies to borscht to beet salad to Bison Stew! Then followed desserts of every kind! Ukrainian guests and children came up to stand in front of the fireplace and sing Christmas songs to us all, including what we know as The Carol of the Bells, which was created by a Ukrainian composer. It was a meaningful, heartfelt evening for everyone.