This post, written by Darren Kropf of the City of Kitchener’s Community Service Department, shows us how building strong connections in your neighbourhood can not only lead to fun, but to safer and more cooperative communities. Thank you for sharing, Darren!
“A young family recently moved to Kitchener from Chicago. As you can imagine, a big move like that can be quite challenging for children (and for us adults too!). What will their new home be like? How will they make friends?
The family attended Kitchener’s 2nd annual Neighbours Day on June 11, 2016. The whole family enjoyed free outdoor activities, a magician and a community art project. The children especially enjoyed the popsicles on a sweltering hot day!
Afterwards, the parents shared how excited their kids were to be part of such a fun neighbourhood where cool events like Neighbours Day happen. Their family had completed one step towards feeling like they belong in Waterloo Region.
Currently, the City of Kitchener is developing a Neighbourhood Strategy. To do so, we’ve put together a large project team of passionate volunteers and city staff. We’re going all over the city with “street teams,” asking for people’s input. Fun and inspiring focus groups are being held by neighbours and organizations. We threw a big party back in April and are hosting a placemaking challenge on August 13. Of course, there are engaging online tools as well.
Why go to all this effort? Is it really such a big deal if neighbours know each other and have fun things to do together? Yes!
On February 22, 2011, a massive earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. People are still rebuilding from the damage caused 5 years later.
In looking back on the emergency situation, first responders noticed a difference between certain neighbourhoods. In the close-knit neighbourhoods, people worked together to make sure everyone was safe. On the other hand, some people waited days for help, simply because no one was looking out for them because they had never really met before.
Thankfully, there’s not much risk of earthquakes here in Kitchener. But other emergencies can still happen, and imagine how that new family from Chicago might feel if a crisis hit their neighbourhood. Would anyone look out for them?
Our neighbourhoods are constantly growing, changing and adapting – just like the people within them! Through fun events like street parties and carnivals or random encounters at the park, trail or sidewalk, social connections are built. Once people belong, they can respond to any crises or challenges that come their way.
Even better, they start to work together on a proactive basis, making their neighbourhood the best it can be. Who knows what kinds of ideas and talents that family from Chicago might contribute to their new neighbourhood? Maybe they’ll host a party of their own!
After all, a party is more than just a party. It’s a pathway to belonging and the transformation of a neighbourhood.”