The CommuniTEA Infusion project is an innovative social change initiative that’s been running for over ten years. A rebuilt and beautified Volkswagen van creates a ‘pop up’ town square atmosphere where people gather, chat, and share in community over a cup of tea. The premise is simple-draw people in with a cool set up, eye-catching colors, and friendly smiles, but what is achieved is so much more. The van is the impetus for connection; sparking conversation and setting the stage for community members with and without disabilities to get to know one another. A key ingredient to the van’s success are community builders; people with disabilities who make and serve the tea. Community builders bring enthusiasm and warmth to the space, welcoming people as they approach the van and striking up conversation.
Emily Hannem, has been a long time champion of the tea van. Acting as lead community builder at events and coordinator behind the scenes, she brought life to the project. This is Emily’s story…
How did you become involved with the CommuniTEA Infusion project? What made you want to take on this role?
I started with the CommuniTEA Infusion project 3 years ago. One of the managers at Skills (Ben) introduced it to me and Randi (Who was my support worker at the time). He explained how the tea van was run and what the purpose the van made while engaging in the community. I decided to accept the offer of becoming the new CommuniTEA coordinator because it helped build my confidence as well as help with my social anxiety. I became less anxious about the surroundings as well as the people, and was more relaxed once the events started to roll. Being apart of such a great project, really did help with those skills.
My favorite part of coordinating the tea van was serving up a cup of tea with a warm greeting and a smile. I wanted everyone that came by to have a pleasant experience. Throughout the course of my time there I also really enjoyed that people were (and still are) fascinated with the van (it’s quite the attention seeker….in a good sense haha). Not only that but it made people interested in having the van and us come to an event either they were hosting or thinking of having. The project itself is a great way to attract people and get them out and visit with their neighbors and friends. I love it!
I learned that with hard work and determination you can really make a difference in the community and that’s what this project does! I feel like I grew somewhat while being with the CommuniTEA team, however I feel there’s still room for improvement. As I said social anxiety has been in my life forever and it can be hard for me to stand out, but with guidance and a little push, I know I can make myself be heard a lot better! Professionally, I’d say I have grown, I became more confident in knowing my role of the project, and how to do the job right!
What’s next for you?
I’m sad to say that my time coordinating the van is at a close, however that doesn’t mean I won’t be attending events that are open for volunteer work here and there. That said, I still plan to continue my work at London Drugs and I hope to find some social groups I can attend where I can meet people and work on my social skills! 🙂
We are grateful for all that Emily contributed to the CommuniTEA Infusion project and wish her all the best in her future endeavors! As for the tea van, we are looking forward to rounding out the 2017 season with many more events, bringing tea and good cheer to neighborhoods around the city! Interested in having the van come out to your neighborhood? Click here to learn more or book us online.