Young people work on sense of belonging
Joe Couture, Leader-Post
Published: Friday, April 13, 2007
A project of the Vancouver-based organization The Belonging Initiative is coming to Regina to lead a new generation of young people in which “belonging is really nurtured.”
“Right now … people with disabilities, among others whom are marginalized, are really isolated and lonely,” said co-ordinator Brian Smith. “Collectively, we want to see the end of that … and one of the ways we want to do that is to begin working with young people now.”
Regina will be the first city to host a Bandwidth for Belonging (B4B) session today and Saturday. More than 20 youths between the ages of 17 and 27, some with disabilities and some without, will gather to discuss belonging, Smith explained. Sessions will also be held in Richmond, B.C., St. John’s, NL, Montreal and St. Catharines, Ont.
The B4B project has two main goals, Smith said. The first is to collect useful information, while the second is to initiate and engage young people in the larger belonging movement and to encourage them to take the roles of leaders and “co-creators” in the initiative…
The structure of the four-hour workshop will parallel those goals, with the morning devoted to discussion of participants’ experience of belonging, and the afternoon focusing on ways to nurture a sense of belonging for everyone.
Smith expects a number of outcomes from the B4B project, including the development of recommendations to inform the larger national initiative and member organizations, Smith said.
The project will also work with the organization Check Your Head, and the Web site TakingITGlobal.org, a social networking Web site similar to MySpace and Facebook. The 150,000-member site connects young people across the world who are interested in local civic and social justice actions, Smith said.
Finding creative ways to nurture belonging through new technologies is important to the project. Smith hopes to involve participants from all five cities in the last session in Richmond, by connecting everyone together online.
The focal point for the workshops will be the belonging experience of people with disabilities, Smith said.
“We feel people with disabilities have some particular insight into this issue,” he said. “Having said that, we also recognize that … a sense of belonging is something that resonates with us all.”
However, it’s important to change the underlying attitude related to disability issues from one of advocacy and charity to one that recognizes the wealth of experience people with disabilities and their families have, he said.
“We see people with disabilities and their families as leaders,” he said. “It’s people with disabilities and their families that are leading this charge.”
Fifteen organizations, most of which are focused on disabilities in some way, came together to form The Belonging Initiative, which is less than a year old, said Smith. In Regina, The Belonging Initiative is connected with the South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre, where the workshop will be held, and the Regina Association for Community Living.
For more information, visit www.nurturingbelonging.ca.
© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007