Tova has always found art therapeutic for herself, a way to deal with the stresses of her own life and career as a lawyer. So when an opportunity came to volunteer at her local Homes First community to lead weekly art workshops, she found it a perfect fit.
“I really wanted to get involved in my community directly,” she says.
Traditionally, workshops at Strachan House falter quickly. Residents may come for a week or two, or drop by to see what’s happening, but interest fades fast and volunteers, feeling disheartened, give up too. But with the help of weekend staff and consistent push to get people involved, Tova has managed to get a small group of regulars to participate every week.
“They know they can come there every Sunday night and have someone to talk to or listen to them.”
What started out as casual art nights has turned into planned evenings that include a range of activities like mask making, creating sock puppets and more. While some actively participate each week, others just enjoy watching.
More important than the actual art is the connections Tova has formed with residents, and residents between themselves. For her, volunteering is more than just donating time; it’s about building bridges with the people who make up her community. At Strachan House, those bridges are sometimes harder to build; many of the residents live with complex mental health or addictions issues, sometimes both.
“I think people who are experiencing homelessness or have mental health issues get ignored, it’s easier to push them aside and not connect with them as people,” she says. “It’s beneficial to everyone when we all reach out to each other.”