Building a Sense of Community
WINNIPEG, MB. - One of the things that attracted me to live in Charleswood is that it is “a little bit country, a little bit city.” But what does that mean? What is this feeling of “country” in our neighbourhood? I believe that it’s the sense of community that you have when you live in a small town or rural area that often seems to get lost in a big city. It’s a feeling of people knowing each other and caring for each other; it’s the fact that families seem to settle in that area for generations; it’s walking into the grocery store and seeing neighbours or friends; it’s your children going to school with other children whose parents you know. But most of all it’s the sense of caring that is exhibited when people truly know each other, and are not just a nameless face.
Shortly after I was elected as the MLA for Charleswood, I noticed that there was a need for an opportunity for community leaders to come together to share views about the community in which we live. Because of the identification of this need, I established a Community Leaders Networking Luncheon Series for providing community leaders with an opportunity to network.
The benefits of this luncheon series are to work at ways to:
• Strengthen our community from within, thus leading to sustained success.
• Utilize fully and appropriately our neighbourhood assets.
• Strengthen our identity as a community and provide better support to all our “neighbours”.
• Promote community involvement in enhancing quality of life in our community.
We currently hold these luncheons twice a year and generally include a speaker on a topic of interest to everyone in the community. The group is composed of representatives from education, business, service groups, recreational activities, health, community services, churches, etc. We also allow time for short presentations by community leaders themselves.
Many community leaders have told me that they find these lunches very valuable and we have seen partnerships develop among community leaders that have been very valuable. Providing an opportunity for community members to come together is important for our health and social well-being.
Are there other ways to foster this sense of community? What can we do on an individual basis to be able to realize the benefits of community? For some it may be attending a local church; taking part in cultural or historical celebrations; joining a walking club or exercise class with their neighbours; volunteering in one of their local clubs – and there are many to choose from.
In one of my past articles I talked about finding a passion in your life. What better way than to find something that you can share with your friends and neighbours. The public library offers many activities for all ages; 55+ Active Living Centres are often a beehive of activity. If gardening is your passion – there are garden clubs and the horticultural society. If history is your thing there are many active historical societies in Manitoba. There are art groups in many communities if you have an artistic or creative urge.
Having a sense of community means feeling accepted by others. It is this feeling of acceptance that makes us feel as if we are a member of a team. To join a “team” or organization may mean that we must actively seek out other members of the “team”. When we find a group of people that we share common interests with, sometimes we need to jump right in and forget any negative or apprehensive feelings. Open your mind to this new experience. It is through a sense of community that we are connected to other humans and it is this connection that will help us deal with other stresses in life. A feeling of belonging is one of man’s most basic needs – after food and shelter. It improves your mood, health and happiness.
Connecting with others requires practice and effort. It requires that you cultivate a sense of acceptance of others and look for similarities among people rather than differences. But the payoff is worth it. My Community Leaders Networking Luncheons are one of my favourite initiatives that I have done as an MLA. I am always amazed that they have remained so popular after all these years. I am also so impressed with the number of people in our community who do reach out to others to better their lives and the lives of others. In times of unrest and unsettling events around the world, it always restores my confidence in mankind and I enjoy the sense of community that we have in my neighbourhood.