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This is a about living a legacy right now

Back to the River: Finding London's Sense of Belonging

December 1, 2015

What if home isn’t really a place but a state of mind, a sense of belonging, a belief that we are part of a greater story than just some physical location?  It’s an important question, pivotal enough that Community Foundations Canada (CFC) made the subject of “belonging” as the centrepiece for its national Vital Signs report.  Its title said it all: Belonging: Exploring Connection to Community.

For some time Canada’s community foundations have been expanding their reach, moving their resources into areas as diverse as food security, mental health, and social enterprise.  No longer the foundations of an earlier time, these organizations, not merely content to fund various initiatives, have taken the lead in pushing the envelope for how Canada needs to adjust to embrace modern challenges.  And key to it all is the belief that all of our actions and efforts have little impact if we can’t create a sense of greater belonging at the same time.

That’s the logic that drove London Community Foundation’s Back to the River initiative in the past three years.  Not content with merely funding individual projects, it looked for one large and transcendent opportunity that could assist in bringing Londoners and their region together in new and meaningful ways.  Back to the River is what resulted, and the greater interest that has been expressed over its possibilities hint that a new sense of belonging might be just around the corner.

The amount of planning and resource allocation that went into the project was naturally comprehensive, but over it all emerged on key question: “Will Londoners feel different about their city as a result and feel more included?”  Early indications are that this is exactly what’s happening.  The Thames River not only joins physical locations together as it wound through the community, it has now become a defining value of the kind of community we want and how we want to achieve it.  Back to the River was never a project but a movement of the human capacity to aim for something better, more expansive.

This isn’t merely about leaving a legacy for a community.  It is about living that legacy right now.  It is about our moment in time to make a difference, to build and enjoy it in our own generation.  It is about our kids, not just future generations.  Underlying it all is the belief that we belong to the Thames River and the more we understand that relationship, the more London itself will adapt to the river’s remarkable potential for nurture, diversity, connection, and a future more inclusive than the past.  And underlying it all is the London Community Foundation’s belief that, yes, home is far more than a place, but is, in reality, a state of citizenship and belonging that begins on the banks of the Thames River.

Glen Pearson
Glen Pearson is the co-director of the London Food Bank and executive director of Canadian Aid for South Sudan. Glen is a regular columnist for the London Free Press.