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The Circle of Courage and Sense of Belonging

Posted on June 3, 2016
By Carla Bullinger

Sense of Belonging – this was a recurring phrase I heard while listening to the webinar Homecoming, Gifts and Rootedness: Coming home to the wonder of a place based world.

Latest_Carla_Bullinger_Blog_cariboo-chilcotin-image-213050-edited.jpgThere are so many great and innovative projects in cities and neighbourhoods that are trying to re-capture this sense of belonging. 
Our community, the Cariboo-Chilcotin in central BC, has discovered the Circle of Courage® to be an amazing working philosophy that articulates Sense of Belonging as a core value.   

The Circle of Courage® is based on the universal principle that to be emotionally healthy all youth need a sense of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity. A few years ago, we had the opportunity to host Dr. Martin Brokenleg at a large community gathering where he spoke passionately, eloquently, and with wisdom on the Circle of Courage. We then worked together to identify how we, as families, communities, educators, and service providers support the principles of the Circle of Courage; then we challenged ourselves to expand on and better integrate the work we’re doing. The result? The Cariboo-Chilcotin Circle of Courage.

Our School District has it embedded these principles in its vision statement. Sense of Belonging has become the district’s central focus because students first must have a sense of belonging before they can move onto mastery in learning, independence of self, and generosity of spirit.  Sense of Belonging is most successful when applied to all in a system: students, teachers, support staff, and administration –  we all need to belong. The video Just 1 Thing tells the story of this journey and shows what Sense of Belonging looks like in practice. 

Finally, the Circle of Courage is not limited to youth. These principles can be applied to any context be it in adult learning programs, a workplace, or a community or system design process. One thing we have learned on this journey is that Belonging is not something you can check off your list; it requires nurturing and is a job that’s never done.

Community Building, Cities Deepening Community

Carla Bullinger

By Carla Bullinger

Carla Bullinger has been working in the field of community development, literacy, and adult education for more than 20 years. In the 1990s, she worked in the NWT as the literacy coordinator for Aurora College and as Executive Director of the NWT Literacy Council where she piloted family literacy projects; facilitated a one-to-one volunteer tutoring program; supported communities in building their capacity to provide literacy services; and helped initiate workplace literacy training. She has taught at the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women; managed an English Language Services for Adults (ELSA) program for new immigrants (the former, and now again current, LINC); participated in the development of a provincial training strategy for ESL Instructors and Settlement Workers; and helped develop a pilot program for multi-barriered refugees and their families. She currently works in Williams Lake as the Literacy Coordinator and as the Facilitator of Communities that Cares, a Collective Impact initiative that fosters healthy youth development while addressing the root causes of negative behaviour. She is life-long learner, and is passionate about life

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