When it comes to building community, individuals can make a difference – one hug at a time! See how projects such as 100inOneDay and Abundant Communities harness people power to strengthen our social fabric with positive, grassroots initiatives.
Amidst a sea of tourists at Canada Place, a group of people with placards advertise the reason they are there. But they have nothing to sell or protest. They are here to hug. It’s not just a gesture of brotherly love, it’s part of an international movement called 100 in One Day.
Robyn Chan of the not-for-profit organization Evergreen is coordinating the 100 in One Day event in Metro Vancouver, and participating in one of the ‘interventions’; cheering the efforts of runners, walkers, and cyclists on Stanley Park’s Seawall, with supportive exhortations and the traditional instrument of athletic encouragement – the cowbell. Whether it’s handing out free hugs or applauding people for their morning run or ride, she says it’s all aimed at forming connections between people.
Support Makes First Step Easier
“I think that 100 in one day is a really great opportunity for individuals who have ideas and might not have otherwise done it,” says Chan. “We help by providing permits, driving outreach, and (handling) the publicity – so people can kind of take that first step without feeling like they’re on their own.
“It’s not often you have that opportunity to connect with a random stranger as you walk past them in the street,” notes Danielle Enright, who spearheaded the free hug intervention. “Just to stand in front of one person and tell them I’m willing to hug you, they just shine and they are happy.”
Social Cohesion Part of Regional Vision
Metro Vancouver’s vision for the future of the region identifies community building, and developing social cohesion, as a key principle in pursuing its sustainability goals. Yet surveys by the Vancouver Foundation reveal that people in the region may be feeling a sense of isolation and a lack of connection. The burning question, what can be done about it? The City of Coquitlam has presented residents with a structured option. Volunteers are being coached on how to go door to door to find out what skills and talents their neighbours could share with each other.
“I think this program is exactly what this city needs,” says Coquitlam city councillor Chris Wilson. “A lot of people want to be a lot more connected in their neighbourhoods. If we can get it going in Coquitlam it will be a great thing for our city.”
Annual Events Showcase Connected Communities
The District of North Vancouver is one of many municipalities that supports block parties and other neighbourhood events as a way of building community. Eric Godot Andersen is the chair of the Blueridge Community Association. He helps organize an annual event in his neighbourhood.
“Blueridge’s good neighbor day has been taking place for 18 years. It really gives me a feeling that the community is getting together and are feeling they’re achieving something and that’s beautiful. Really to me it’s community building at its best.”
In Burnaby, Hats Off Day is another community event happening during 100 in One Day. It has become a huge event since its inception in 2001, connecting local merchants to residents. But whether events are large or small they all serve the same purpose – to build community, one event at a time.
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