The term ‘sense of community’ relates to the idea that community is experienced. When people relate to being members of a community, they feel a strong psychological connection to that group.
According to Statistics Canada, “A feeling of belonging to a country, region and local community can influence people’s sense of identity and the extent to which they participate in society. Generally, a strong sense of belonging is associated with better self-reported physical and mental health and positively contributes to individual and community well-being.”
This could be why community volunteers are always the people with the biggest smiles, the most engaging personalities and the friendliest demeanor when you see them out and about at events and programs throughout their community. Volunteering brings people from all walks of life together to work on a common project or objective that provides benefits to both the community and the individual.
While the community benefits from receiving important services that positively impact the lives of its citizens, research also suggests that volunteers themselves benefit from gaining a range of experience, skills, social and business networking opportunities. Volunteering also allows members of the public to be more informed and engaged with the what is happening in their community.
Community Engagement facilitates communication, participation, connection and exchange between an organization and a community through practices that aim to both understand and be responsive to community needs, views and expectations. Community engagement also strengthens relationships between community members which can further facilitate a sense of belonging, improved health and overall happiness.
Citizens can become engaged when they play a meaningful role in discussions, decision-making and the creation or implementation of projects or programs affecting them.
Whether you are young or have more life experience, are a long-time resident or new to your community, I encourage you to learn about the heritage and culture of the community you call home. Volunteer for and attend local community events, join one of the valuable service clubs or sports organizations that continuously work hard to serve their communities and improve the quality of life of their people. Speak to your elected representatives, ask questions and provide constructive feedback in order for government and citizens to work and learn together to create and realize bold visions for the future.
Do this and you can be sure that the pride and fellowship in your own community will be felt and preserved for future generations to enjoy.