HUMANKIND is an inherently social species. Not only do positive relationships reduce stress and feelings of loneliness, but they also result in long-term happiness and good health. A sense of belonging plays an important part in this social phenomenon.
When we feel we belong within our group of friends, our family or community, we believe we can comfortably contribute and share. What ends up happening is that more is accomplished than what is possible by one's self.
However, in our ever-changing, fast-paced world, it can be easier to disconnect than to belong. This poses a challenge for social justice and environmental organizations alike - how do we foster a sense of belonging within new and old community members, and how do we make it last?
With this in mind, AJ asked four Waterloo Region organizations for their thoughts on belonging and how they integrate it through their projects and programs. Here's what they had to say.
rare - Charitable Research Reserve
"The key to belonging is a connection to place and space, the lands we live and work-on, the foods we grow on it, [and] the communities and relationships we build on it," says Dr. Stephanie Sobek-Swanf, executive-director of rare.
You'll find these kinds of connections at rare's 900acre Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge, Ontario. * Research and education play key roles in its mission to preserve, protect and restore the environment of its lands, numerous programs engage the public, everything from Every Child Outdoors program, which helps train and inspire future environmentalists, to the Turn the Map Green Campaign, which gives individuals a sense of ownership by letting them adopt a square of land.
The Springbank Community Garden at rare also creates a sense of home. "Giving [people] space to connect with the land, and grow the foods they know, is a great learning and sharing opportunity for everyohe and really accomplishes a sense of belonging," says Sobek-Swant. It's comfort food straight from the garden.
What may be most important for solving the environmental and social issues in this land is to listen, Sobek-Swant says. To illustrate the point, she passed on a quote from First Nations writer Lee Maracle, who lived in rare's North House as the 2015 Eastern Comma Writer in Resident: "No one in Canada has their original landscape." So as "newcomers," we need to work together on strengthening our bond to the land while being open to doing things differently.