"How do we build belonging? We work at it."
If someone asked you if you felt like you belonged in your community, what would you say?
Maybe you are lucky enough to have an active life, where you see multiple people per day, engage in conversations, volunteer with different groups, actively learn and participate in community events, and feel safe all while doing so. Or maybe you don't.
"What is your sense of Belonging? What belongs to you? Your community?"
These were questions that David McConnachie, from Alternatives Hournal (A\J), asked attendees last October, when The KWCF was launching its 2016 Waterloo Region's Vital Signs® report. This year, the Vital Signs report was launched alongside a special issue of A\J that focused on the concept of Belonging in Waterloo Region and beyond.
It's been three years since The KWCF first started focusing their work on impacting Belonging. Since then, many other organizations in our community have also been working on fostering people's sense of Belonging.
Bridges to Belonging launched a campaign called We Belong Waterloo Region that focuses on ensuring everyone is able to use their unique talents and abilities to their fullest extent while participating in public events, programs, and life in general.
"Belonging is kind of a big deal for us," explained Cameron Dearlove, Executive Director of Bridges to Belonging, at the Vital Signs launch. "It is a powerful idea with real world implications for individuals and for our community."
Bridges to Belonging was one of the local organizations featured in the issue. Others included House of Friendship, Sustainable Waterloo Region, Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network, and the YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo.
Fostering a positive sense of Belonging can be as simple as asking someone to join you for coffee. By inviting someone into your life you can show them that they are important, that they belong in your community, and that you care about their well being.
People who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to participate in social activities, volunteer, and give back to their community. Even the smallest act of kindness, paired with an open mind and mutual respect, can help someone feel like they belong.
Waterloo Region is full of individuals and organizations working incredibly hard to ensure that all citizens feel like they belong, from the thousands of Syrian refugees, newcomers, at-risk youth, seniors, young adults and children. Many local movements are underway, and community connections are continuing to grow.
"There is something special in this community," finished McConnachie. "There is something magical here in Waterloo Region that enables us to come together and tackle complex issues like Belonging in such a unique way."
While our community's work on Belonging is far from over, The KWCF is now a part of a greater whole looking to make a difference in our community.