Reflecting on Belonging

Mar. 18, 2019

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“Belonging” is both difficult to define and difficult to measure. It’s something you feel rather than observe.

On March 6, at Museum London’s beautiful Centre at the Forks, London Community Foundation hosted its first Vital Conversation of the year on Belonging, the first of seven events exploring the issue areas outlined in LCF’s Vital Signs report. Drawing upon the expertise of seven speakers and over 50 engaged community members, we tried to get at the heart of what “belonging” means and how we can foster more of it in our community.

Fittingly, the event was launched with a joint land welcoming and acknowledgment presented by Leslee White-Eye and Martha Powell, symbolizing a progression towards reconciliation. A testament to the fact that while colonial settlers did not belong here initially, their descendants do, and with that belonging comes a responsibility to care for and respect the land and water that gives us the privilege of life.

Each speaker then shared their experiences and perspectives on belonging, with many stories crossing over and intertwining personal, professional, and academic viewpoints to create a rich tapestry of meaning; a holistic view of what belonging is.

With each talk providing the context for a roundtable discussion, our speakers joined attendees in meaningful, vital conversations exploring each issue area in detail.  Although every table was assigned a different overarching topic, a common thread emerged when each tables’ learnings were reported: Belonging is dependent on a person’s ability to participate in their community and access everything it has to offer.

Stigmas are reinforced and perpetuated when communities are ghettoized. Mental health issues escalate when treatment is not timely, adequate, or affordable. People remain jobless when employers discriminate based on gender, race, or disability. Students’ futures are jeopardized when standardized testing doesn’t allow them to demonstrate their strengths. These are not just indicators of a lack of belonging, they’re amplifiers.

A lot of great work is being done in our community to lessen the impact of these amplifiers, and much of it involves listening to the voices that often go unheard. Encouraging compassion, understanding, and flexibility where they already exist, and finding ways to include them in areas they don’t was a common theme permeating much of the discussion.

This was just the beginning. With our next Vital Conversation, Be Green, set to take place on April 25th at Goodwill Industries, we’ll begin our deep dive into specific issue areas. Stay tuned for more information!

Thank you to our generous Vital Signs sponsor Deloitte.

  

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