Simply put, community is a group of people who share particular attributes and have the strength of the connections among them.
As I find myself exploring what community means to me, I realize that I belong to many communities. Communities that vary between my personal life and my work life.
Community plays a large part in my work life. It’s even in my position title – I’m the community literacy coordinator in Salmo. Often, people think the “community” part of my role refers to the geographical place I work. While that is true, community means so much more to me.
For me, community in my work world is about the connection within a group. In my case, it’s people and organizations that are connected by a passion for literacy, and the desire to make a difference. My literacy community includes program facilitators, volunteers, committee members and local partners.
These literacy warriors help strengthen the community in several ways. Family program facilitators provide opportunities for caregivers to learn how to support children’s literacy and learning at home.
Adult program facilitators provide opportunities for adults to learn something new in a supportive environment.
Volunteers give the gift of their time to help students improve their reading skills.
Community Literacy Planning Committee members support literacy work by sharing information, and facilitating new connections.
It takes a community to build a healthy, literate society. Individuals with strong literacy skills are more likely to be involved in their communities, making change, making a difference.
I began my role as the community literacy coordinator in Salmo about three years ago. Something interesting about my role is that I am the coordinator for a village that I do not live in. When I started, it was challenging. I was basically on my own. It took time to get to know people. It took time to build connections. It took time to find program facilitators. It took time to meet community members.
Over the past three years, it has been amazing to watch how the literacy network has grown. We now have a total of 20 facilitators, volunteers, committee members, and community partners, in a community of 1100 people. All of them are working to make a positive impact in Salmo.
Why is belonging, or having a sense of community important? Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Maslow believed that behaviour was motivated by different needs. In order to reach our full potential, the more basic needs must be met before more complex needs can be fulfilled.
Our first needs are physiological - things like air, water and food. After that, we need to be safe. Then we need to feel a sense of love and belonging. As humans, we have a strong social need to feel connected. We are motivated to find those places where we belong.
Maslow says that belonging is essential to our overall health, productivity and well-being. I would have to agree! I am passionate about the work I do and the community that has been created because of it. At the end of the day, it’s the relationships you make within your communities that fill you up. These relationships create a sense of belonging and purpose.
I feel grateful for the relationships I have and the literacy work I am able to do. Without those connections and those people supporting me, much of what I do would not be possible. No matter what communities you consider yourself to be a part of, treasure those who accept, support, and help you to fulfill all the roles in your life.
Read more about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
If you are interested in becoming part of the CBAL literacy community, contact your local community literacy coordinator.
Community Literacy Coordinator – Salmo
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy