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What Does Community mean to me?
To me, community is difficult to express in simple words. It is more of a feeling or a state of belonging, connectedness, and mutuality. Community is the antithesis of isolation and loneliness, and I would argue that humans have an innate desire to co-exist with other beings. Community can be a way to identify ourselves in relation to others and to know our place in the world. It can be a source of support and strength, and from our experiences in community we can derive purpose.
What is a memorable experience of community I have had and what made it so memorable?
Over four summers I worked in Toronto as an ESL teacher/mentor to university students from Quebec who participated in an exchange program to learn English. Throughout this time, I lived with the students in a dorm setting and got to know many of them personally. While many of the students were Quebecois, there were also a large number of immigrants and refugees who were deemed ‘outsiders’ by the dominant French-Canadians. What was amazing to me about this experience of community is that as participants we were all given the opportunity to meet and learn from individuals whose culture, language and lived experience were different from our own. By living, working and learning with an array of individuals from across the globe, the students and myself were able to share and celebrate similarities like family, food, love and belonging, and to learn constructively about our differences.
What challenges do I see in my community?
In the specific context of the above example, the primary challenge to maintaining the structural integrity of the community was the fracturing and splintering of identities/groups within the community. The old adage, ‘divide and conquer’ can be applied to communities because divisiveness is what undermines a healthy functioning community. What can also be problematic are our multiple identities and memberships to various communities which can compete for our time and attention. I think the greatest challenges to community are intra (within) and inter (without/between) pressures and demands.
What opportunities do I see in my community?
In community I see the potential for growth and greater self-awareness and collective-consciousness. Communities are the perfect place for learning, growth and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Communities have the potential to be catalysts for social change and can provide individual support and purpose. There is strength in numbers and strength in a collective will and mandate. The potential for community is vast and can be an effective anecdote for discord and difference.
What hopes, dreams, visions and ideas do I have to build community in my future?
In my future plans for community, I would like to see a greater emphasis on leveraging collective power and mobilizing community groups to achieve social change. I am excited about the role of community in political advocacy and social justice and I would like to nourish and build this role of community in the future.