The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson Addresses Belonging
“You can’t belong unless there is something to belong to.”
These words, spoken by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada, resonated with the audience at the BELONGING-Diversity, Community Capacity and Contribution event that was held in May 2016. This event, hosted in partnership with House of Friendship and the University of Waterloo, highlighted the importance of a citizen's sense of belonging in Waterloo Region, as well as throughout Canada as a whole.
The KWCF identified the concept of belonging as a priority area in its 2013 Vital Signs® report.Then, in 2015, The Foundation redesigned its unrestricted grants to form the Smart & Caring Grants program in order to place more emphasis on fostering belonging in Waterloo Region.
Since then, many organizations have stepped up and offered new programs for refugees, newcomers, at-risk, marginalized and vulnerable groups. These new programs offer safe spaces, information and comfortable atmospheres within participant's immediate communities; they help offer a sense of belonging, and help bolster stronger community connections.
In her lecture, Clarkson emphasized the concept of a community identifying as 'we' rather than sectioning groups of people as 'others.'
"We are all equals as human beings," she said. "You are part of humanity."
In order to create a sense of belonging, people don't necessarily have to like each other. Rather, they have to respect each other's beliefs and cultures, and ultimately, be respectful in allowing everyone to participate in events, conversations and public programs.
"Belonging is one of those things that happens if you make everything open to people," Clarkson continued. If people are able to actively participate, they feel welcomed, which in turn helps strengthen their sense of belonging.
People need each other in order to thrive, and Waterloo Region is lucky to see so many individuals and organizations working together in order to ensure that everyone feels at home in their community.
"People do things together. You can pool resources and do better things with other people than you can do on your own," Clarkson emphasized to her audience. "We are more than just ourselves."