Vickie Cammack & Zoel Breau - A Revolution of Belonging

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Vickie Cammack and Zoel Breau share their deep understanding of what creates a sense of belonging and how each of us can foster a spirit of inclusion in both our personal lives and in the organizations we work with every day.

Vickie Cammack and Zoel Breau are two of Canada’s foremost authorities on the subject of inclusion and belonging. In this podcast, each shares their deep understanding of what creates a sense of belonging and how each of us can foster a spirit of inclusion in both our personal lives and in the organizations we work with every day.

With the collective wisdom of over fifty years of working with people with disabilities, Vickie and Zoel each speak to the heart of what it would mean to create a revolution in the way we perceive and interact with people who are isolated or marginalized, and how richly we would benefit by making all human beings a part of our communities.

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Vickie Cammack and Zoel Breau share their deep understanding of belonging and inclusion, and speak to creating a revolution in how we perceive and interact with isolated or marginalized people.

Vickie Cammack and Zoel Breau share their deep understanding of belonging and inclusion, and speak to creating a revolution in how we perceive and interact with isolated or marginalized people.

BelongingVickie Cammack and Zoel Breau are two of Canada’s foremost authorities on the subject of inclusion and belonging. In this seminar, each shares their deep understanding of what creates a sense of belonging and how each of us can foster a spirit of inclusion in both our personal lives and in the organizations we work with every day.

With the collective wisdom of over fifty years of working with people with disabilities, Vickie and Zoel each speak to the heart of what it would mean to create a revolution in the way we perceive and interact with people who are isolated or marginalized, and how richly we would benefit by making all human beings a part of our communities.

Learning Objectives:

  • To hear two personal definitions of community and belonging
  • To learn the origins of the deep need for belonging that we all feel
  • To understand why we use a word like “revolution” to describe this movement
  • To explore how PLAN and L’Arche foster inclusion in society

On this page you'll find:

Meet the Thought Leaders

Vickie CammackVickie Cammack is the Executive Director of the PLAN Institute. Vickie is someone who finds and implements innovative solutions in the social sector. She is a recognized Canadian source of inspiration, innovative ideas and demonstrable solutions related to community, citizenship and disability. Read more here.

Zoel BreauZoel Breau is the National Coordinator for L’Arche Canada, the umbrella organization that unites and serves the 28 L’Arche communities that support people with intellectual disabilities across Canada. He came into contact with L’Arche through a youth group and began to volunteer with the organization back in l978, after high school. He has served in a variety of roles and capacities including membership on the International Council and Board of L’Arche. Read more here.

Paul BornPaul Born is the President and Co-founder of Tamarack and has worked with many organizations and communities to develop innovative and sustainable ideas that motivate people to collaborative action and change. Learn more about Paul by visiting his profile here.

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Definitions of Belonging and Community

Each person has his or her own definition of concepts like belonging and community, based on the unique meanings they create in their lives. One person might think of “community” as the neighbourhood where they do their shopping and banking. Another might think of the place they worship.

For both Vickie and Zoel, belonging and community are very much grounded in the deep and profound connection they feel with the people they work and live with every day.

For Vickie, belonging and community are completely intertwined and are made up of a number of ingredients: geography, a sense of familiarity and welcome, and a capacity for celebration.

She speaks of our need to feel part of a shared endeavor, a shared face, a shared area of care and adds that the sense of community is very important because it’s from this place that we act and are accountable to one another.

Hear Vickie talk about belonging and community:

Zoel has been profoundly influenced by his life within the L’Arche community. He quoted Jean Vanier, saying that deep in our need to be loved is our need to belong.

Zoel feels that we need a place where everybody’s gifts can be revealed and recognized, where we can be understood and accepted as we are. This is the spirit of L’Arche, where there is a sense of mutuality – a communion between the caregiver and the one receiving care – where the healer constantly changes place with the one being healed.

Both Vickie and Zoel agree that it is the weakest among us who brings us into true communion and true community.

Hear Zoel talk about belonging and community:

 

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Belonging and Community are Critical

Zoel pointed out that each of us is born into a kind of community, be it our family, our culture, or our religion.  In other words, we begin our life “belonging.”

When we find community at some other time in our life, we feel a great sense of joy. We want to share it.

Listen as Zoel tells a beautiful story of a man who finds community:

 

Vickie had some distressing statistics about how many people in Canada are isolated and without any sense of community. She pointed out that when we don’t have a sense of belonging there’s a fundamental human need not being met and the consequences are dire.
She added that the correlation between a sense of belonging and community with the degree to which people are able to flourish and thrive in their lives has led researchers to describe “protective social networks” as critical to well-being.

Zoel and Vicki talk more about the difficulties that people experience when they are without a sense of belonging:

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Why a Revolution?

Vickie traced the use of the word “revolution” to a conversation between her, John Ralston Saul, and Al Etmanski. She feels “a revolution of belonging” is a wonderful phrase in that it implies intentionality and boldness.

She points out that we’ve had a human rights revolution wherein every citizen has been granted their basic rights, but many people are still denied these rights. She feels that a prime ingredient is being seen as having something to contribute. When people do not see the very profound contribution that is made by people with disabilities, they do not welcome them into community.

Zoel is inspired by young people realizing that they can be powerful together despite differences such as culture. He feels that it is important for all of us to work with others, rather than just being alone in our own little world.

Vickie and Zoel agree that it is revolutionary to realize that the greatest contribution is made by society’s most vulnerable. Listen as they share more:

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Practical Aspects of Creating Belonging

The core work of PLAN is to intentionally and strategically create networks for people who are vulnerable by isolation. “Community connectors” identify the interests of the person and find out who is in their life and who might be added to their life in order to weave together a circle of support.

L’Arche has been in existence for over 40 years, around the globe. A lot of their work was creating a literal home for people. Now, there is a desire to open those doors, to also go out into the larger community.

Vickie and Zoel share two stories:

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Questions for Reflection

  • What has been my deepest experience of belonging? What was it that made it so compelling?
  • Are there times in my life when I have been without a sense of belonging? What did I learn about myself and others?
  • What would a revolution look like within the organization I work for?
  • Who are the people in my life who are marginalized, isolated and alone?
  • Are there meaningful things I could do today to help even one person feel that they belong?

To reflect on these and other important questions, refer to the Resources and Links below.

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Related Resources

PLAN Institute's website - PLAN’s online community resource includes feature stories, news, blogs, events, and a rich library sharing knowledge about belonging and social innovation. Access it here.

Power of Belonging Series - This series on PLAN Institute's site is a dialogue where leading thinkers write on different aspects of belonging. All the articles in the series can be found here.

The Belonging Initiative - Visit The Belonging Initiative website to find stories about isolation being transformed into belonging. Access the site here.

Tyze - Tyze is a new kind of online social network built with the social network expertise of PLAN and PLAN Institute. Visit the website here.

Weaving the Ties that Bind - Plan’s popular, comprehensive course in facilitating social support networks. Access the course here.

L’Arche International – L’Arche is a Federation of more than 135 member communities, established as independent entities in 36 countries. The communities encompass 5000 people with and without an intellectual disability, who share their lives in homes, workshops and day programs. Read more here.

Jean Vanier – Jean Vanier is “a Canadian who inspires the world” (Maclean’s Magazine) and “a nation builder” (the Globe and Mail) who is the founder of the international movement of L’Arche communities. Read more about Jean Vanier here.

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