Neighbourhood Resiliency in Times of Covid-19

As the Covid-19 restrictions in the province begin to relax, we wonder how the pandemic has affected our community.

While we are being asked to stay close to home, and reduce our exposure, our own neighbourhood is more than ever our centre of gravity. We are not going far for goods, services and recreation; without school or summer camps, our kids are spending more time at home; more are working from home, and have eliminated their daily commutes. Others, have simply lost their jobs. Our cars are spending more time parked in our driveways, and traffic in our streets is quieter. In the present climate of uncertainty, knowing our neighbours, connecting with them and being supportive is more important than ever.

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Collage May June e-neighbour

To date, many city and neighbourhood gatherings and activities that attract large crowds have been cancelled. We might find that we have been left to our own devices when it comes to making our own fun.

Are we going to discover that this is the year of “My Neighbourhood”?

This summer we might not have the taste to hold face-to-face neighbourhood gatherings, even if we were allowed, but as the weather warms up, we can rev up our creative powers to think up ways to connect with our neighbours while keeping at least 2 metres apart.

These efforts will help build stronger neighbourhoods, from the ground up. Some of our neighbours might feel very vulnerable to Covid-19, or might have to self-isolate, regardless of new relaxed restrictions. Others might be struggling from the impact of isolation, or changes in their lives that have left them feeling lost. Be thoughtful and open to help out if you can.

In Kitchener we have seen people running errands and doing yard work for others, playing music, displaying art work, chalking messages of encouragement on sidewalks, making noise for frontline workers,  using little libraries as pantries. Many have more time in their hands. We are seeing more people going out for walks, beautifully groomed front yards, and neighbours spontaneously spending some time to chat in their walks. Others are pulling out their lawn chairs, as invitations for neighbours to stop by for a few minutes.

All the signs are pointing at the growing importance of your neighbourhood in your life. Make the best of it; make it caring, safe and fun, for yourself, your family and your neighbours.

Gathering of Gatherings 2019

26th Annual Celebration

November 17, 2019, 1-3 pm
Kitchener City Hall Rotunda

2019 Celebration Poster

Neighbours connected and shared skills and ideas at 26th Kitchener’s annual Festival of Neighbourhoods Celebration. The Festival Season has encouraged and recognized once again this year a wonderful range of neighbourhood gatherings large and small, totaling 69 in all. Neighbours have taken the initiative to organize and attend gatherings at which they meet one another, exchange ideas and strengthen the fabric of our community. 

Citizens from neighbourhoods across Kitchener, city councillors & staff, and representatives of various supporting businesses and agencies came together in a spirit of celebration to share ideas on how to make their neighbourhoods stronger, and to be inspired by the stories of others. Participants struck conversations while enjoying ice cream and snacks, and visiting informational stations that highlighted the key aims of the Festival and recognized the energy and efforts of participants. The Celebration was organized as a “gathering of the gatherings”, staying true to the overall aims of the Festival for bringing people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to meet and engage with one another.

The Victoria Commons Neighbourhood and Chicopee Neighbourhood were the recipients of the Festival’s two $20,000 capital grants, provided by the City of Kitchener. They will work side by side with the City in the coming months to make improvements in their neighbourhoods.

Councillor Kelly Galloway-Sealock drawing the capital grant neighbourhood recipients

The Williamsburg, Sprucedale Crescent, Stanley Park South, Victoria Commons and Chicopee neighbourhoods were highlighted by the Festival and the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region for holding neighbourhood gatherings that strived to be as inclusive as possible. These neighbourhoods have worked to identify barriers to participation and have found practical and innovative solutions to participation in the spirit of the Festival’s motto: Reach!

The Trudy Beaulne Award, from the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region, was presented to the North 6 Neighbourhood in order to provide support for engagement and community development activities that strengthen social connections and capacity throughout this neighbourhood and community. The newly formed North 6 neighbourhood, centred in the Westmount and Ottawa area, looks forward to the possibilities.

The Ward Challenge went to Ward 10 (Councillor Sarah Marsh), with 22 registered neighbourhood gatherings. The “Neighbourhood to City” station highlighted how a neighbourhood becomes stronger when neighbours come together, and how city councillors & staff can offer support to citizens to make their neighbourhoods even greater. The Ward challenge is a fun way to highlight areas of the community where registered participation in the Festival is especially strong.

After a Neighbours Day Picnic, the organizers felt the positive changes in Chicopee neighbourhood. In the words of one participant: “I noticed after our get together, people are smiling more and saying hi to each other. The children feel safe playing outside.I see some residents talking to each other on a daily basis. It has become a warm and pleasant environment.” 

Victoria Commons held their first Block Party in June.“Many people made new connections, and people seemed more inclined to be walking in the neighbourhood saying hi after the Party”

This year’s Sponsors of the Festival and its aims include:  Boehmers Brampton Brick, Steed and Evans, the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association, Alejandra Ivic Re/Max Twin City Realty Inc., the Grand Valley Society of Architects, Swansons Home Hardware Building Centre, the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, and the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

The supporters at this year’s Celebration were Tina’s Zentangle, Articulate Photography and Four All Icecream!

Festival of Neighbourhoods is a joint initiative between John MacDonald Architect and the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region, with support from the City of Kitchener.