By Shaghayegh Shirinbab
Among many other things what amazed me most about Point-Saint-Charles was the sense of community. This is something that you may not sense at a first glance, but as soon as you get involved with the community and spend some time in the neighborhood you will get it and you will appreciate it.
My appreciation for this unique community started at my first visit of the neighborhood in September 2014. I was part of a research group from Concordia University, department of Oral History, studying and researching the history of Point-Saint-Charles in order to produce a an audio walk and an accompanying booklet. We were meeting at Share the Warmth, each week to work collaboratively on our project. Share the Warmth has been providing food, cloths and education for the people of the Point. As I spent more time at this centre, I felt a real sense of belonging and togetherness with and also within the members of the community.
Sense of community is a sense of belonging. It is a feeling that individuals in the community have towards each other. A strong sense of community makes the community members care for each other and for the physical surroundings they live in. It makes people to have strong ties and to be committed as a group. I saw this sense of belonging and togetherness at Share the Warmth, the charitable community organization in the Point that allows for healthy and purposeful interaction between community members. At Share the Warmth, I saw a bonding among individuals, as well as bridging between other community groups such as Concordia University’s professors and students. This is a place to learn and share information. One of the priorities of this community organization is to reduce the cycle of poverty and effects of economic elimination. Volunteers get the opportunity to help package and distribute food bags to community members in need. Some people take care of the second-hand boutique and others prepare food. The food is great by the way. As a community artist seeing these people working coherently and systematically to bring comfort and happiness into their neighborhood amazed me. I thought they must have deeply felt a part of their community. There is some inspiring community building strategies and thoughtful activities taking place there to promote social engagements of the community members; for example educational and cultural programs such as volunteered based tutoring for youths, music lessons and concerts, community arts programs, adult training programs, volunteering, civic events and gatherings. These programs encourage social support, cohesion, community participation and decision-making. These strategies seem to be effective in increasing social ties and creating a strong sense of belonging. They promote feelings of attachment and companionship. They increase individual’s sense of purpose, self-esteem and well being. Ultimately they empower people to gain control over their social, economic and political conditions to improve their lives. These are essential facts in constructing healthy communities, and in larger scale societies, where all people feel valued, their differences are respected and they are able to participate to meet their needs. Organizations such as Share the Warmth are especially critical in under-developed and multi-cultural communities. They enable, educate and even feed the members of the community and in a larger scale fight against isolation and marginalization of the members of the community.