Welcome Week in Full Swing – Why Offering Newcomers a Sense of Belonging is so Important

Welcome Week is upon us and the calendar is booked. From studios offering free classes to Soupalicious, volunteer fairs to the No Host Bazaar, there is a multitude of events to keep folks busy.

“Welcome Week is really about connecting newcomers to the community,” says Jill Zacharias. “We make an effort to showcase the great groups and services in town by facilitating events to help make newcomers feel welcome.”

That is not to say long term residents are not welcome, in fact, it is the opposite. “We want to generate a sense of belonging,” says Zacharias. “That is done by connecting newcomers with people already living in the community.”

In Zacharias’ mind, this is beneficial to both newcomers and residents.

“It comes down to the research that says happiness is linked to having a strong sense of place. If we decrease barriers to service, we decrease feelings of isolation. By giving people a chance to connect with the community groups and other people, they develop a sense of belonging. We encourage a lot of volunteering, because it is a way to meet people, share your skills and build new ones,” says Zacharias.

When newcomers and seasonal visitors become invested in the community, it pays dividends to the health of the community as a whole. Where people feel a sense of place, they are respectful of that space. Local groups gain volunteers, and the skills that newcomers bring in are utilized in a way that benefits the community.

“I’m really excited by the positive energy and skills that people are bringing into town,” says Zacharias. “If even five or ten percent of Season folk end up staying and becoming a part of the community, brining they families and talents with them, then they continue to help make Revelstoke a better place.”

The is hugely important to Zacharias, who notes that many small towns in rural BC struggle to retain the young people of the community. Revelstoke, she believes, bucks the trend by having many young people who grew up here return after attending school or travelling.

And for the people who have moved to Revelstoke and may someday choose to stay, Welcome Week could be the start of them making this town their home.

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