‘My Magic-wand Tap Would Expand Belonging Brant Programming …’

By Deron Hamel

Paul Shepherd says he hopes Belonging Brant continues to grow and thrive so the initiative can keep building stronger communities, include more people and have citizens who are connected through its inclusive environment.

A minister with the United Church of Canada and a Belonging Brant participant, Paul says the initiative is important to him because the citizen-led projects that are developed promote inclusivity.

“Belonging Brant is important to me because — at the risk of sounding trite — belonging is important,” Paul says. “Belonging Brant programs provide safe space for people to be themselves and belong.

“I hope that Belonging Brant continues to exist for the sake of the community. My magic-wand tap would expand Belonging Brant programming to include a wider cross-section of the community.”

“I want to reduce the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (and) to create space where we truly believe that we are all in this together. To me, that is what belonging is about.”

Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Belonging Brant is dedicated to creating connections and building relationships across Brantford and Brant County to help people contribute to their community in a meaningful way.

The project, which creates and encourages citizen-led initiatives, is particularly focused on creating opportunities for human connection and decreasing the isolation faced by so many in the community.

If Belonging Brant can grow to include more citizen-led groups and projects, Paul says the initiative will be better placed to be even more inclusive and garner participation from more people from every walk of life.

“That would lead to reducing barriers and stigmas between all members of the community,” he says. “I want to reduce the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (and) to create space where we truly believe that we are all in this together. To me, that is what belonging is about.”

While Paul doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all idea to grow the Belonging Brant initiative, he says small things like expanding programming outside of regular working hours would be a start.

And, Paul adds, he is willing to help, if needed.

“I am certainly willing to partner with Belonging Brant and offer programming and space to do that experiment,” he says. “And I am delighted to invite my drum circle to community events and to lead drum circles.”

Looking ahead, Paul says he sees positive things to come for Belonging Brant if it stays on course.

“I hope that Belonging Brant continues to exist and that we can continue the ongoing experiments into creating community and belonging,” he says.


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What If Belonging Brant Became a Lasting Community Beacon?

Belonging Brant is already a light in our community. It is the place to be. With three years under our belt and our initial funding coming to an end this October, we have the opportunity to fashion our future anew. We’d love to hear what you’ve loved about Belonging Brant, what you’d like for it to become, and what you might like to do to make that dream come true. Consider taking a few minutes to share your answers to these questions.


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