Belonging

New Voice. New Ideas. New Vision.

Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs Priority Report has been an annual report card on the quality of life in our community. This report, researched and authored annually by the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) for many years, has been a valuable yardstick to measure how we are doing as a community to effect change and improve the quality of life.

Wellbeing Waterloo Region is a community-led initiative that is now gathering these data on a Regional basis. Its work is focused across sectors to improve the wellbeing of our residents. Community wellbeing is shaped by a wide variety of conditions and systems, in which individuals and communities are born, grow, work, live, and play. Recently Waterloo Region residents were invited to take part in a survey to help shape a healthy, happy community. The survey will be used to develop polices and to improve services and necessary supports for people living in Waterloo Region.

It is important that we all feel included and that we belong, whether it is in our family, community, or workplace. For many, this is not as easy as we might assume. In 2015, Vital Signs reported that many residents have a “lukewarm” sense of belonging.

Why would our neighbours not feel like they belong? For one thing, many of our young adults have failed to achieve full-time employment. If they have only part-time work or receive minimum wages, they will be less likely to feel like they belong. Some newcomers to our country who settle in Waterloo Region struggle to feel connected, as do many young families who can become overwhelmed with hectic schedules, insecure employment, rent or mortgage payments, plus recreational and educational costs for their children. It is hard to feel like you belong if you are being smothered with the problems of just living each day.

Donating and volunteering are being challenged, which could suggest we are feeling less connected to our community. Fewer that one in four people donates to a charity. Not-for-profit organizations are having challenges recruiting volunteers and there are few visible minorities in leadership roles. Many people who struggle with chronic health issues are less connected to the community and find it difficult to become engaged.

Waterloo Region is rich with opportunity and resources. As we seek new and creative ways to be an inclusive and welcoming Region in which everyone feels like they belong, we need to recognize the diverse needs of our neighbours and the changes we want to see.

In practical ways, how do we define belonging and community wellbeing? For me it is a way of life — not just short-term solutions to the “issue of the month.” Through the example of my parents, our family has tried to focus on individuals, families, and community organizations where our capacity to help is attainable. Long term relationships with newcomer families, support for new home owners supported by Habitat for Humanity, walking with a young boy or girl to adulthood through the Big Brother/Big Sister Associations or helping to develop community gardens to provide families with healthy foods all create a sense of belonging and wellbeing which will hopefully make a difference in the lives of those we have personally supported.

None of these initiatives is headline news or holds a magic wand to transform the community. But what they all demonstrate is that if, as individuals, we can empower our children and grandchildren to try to make a difference for a few in our community, we will create a sense for people who will feel they belong, have a voice, and live in a Region where personal wellbeing is a priority.

If I have the honour of being elected to Regional Council, I commit myself to working towards a Region in which all its residents feel they belong and enjoy a sense of wellbeing.

Waterloo Region deserves ….

New Voice. New Ideas. New Vision

Change for the future!

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