Belonging | Community

Feb 20, 2023 | 3 comments

Hi everyone and welcome back to ‘Inside Isorropia – The Blog’

We now find ourselves in February and after some very cold and frosty winter mornings down at Medina Valley Centre, we are looking forward to longer days and more sunshine as we head towards Spring. Our team are still very much awed by the beauty of the river and trying to capture that beauty in photographs is becoming a shared hobby for all of us. I have it on good authority that two of our Wellbeing Coaches have recently enrolled on a Photography course, so this could well lead to some healthy competition developing; maybe we should create a photo gallery at MVC to showcase our wonderful setting and our talented team members?! Or I could invite them all to submit a photo – the best of which could be featured in the next blog post. I do love to see creativity being explored and developed and I think it would be lovely to share the results with you all too. What do you think?

Our Keys

The basis of everything we do at Isorropia Foundation lies in our ethos and core values which are neatly packaged into our Five Keys to Wellbeing (See Our Core Valuespage). Much of what we do is about empowering people. We want everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and valued. We hear all too often from members that these things have been missing in their lives, despite often having been through many other services in their mental health journeys. Others may be feeling that they have exhausted all options open to them in their existing social circles. Often we work with those who either a) don’t have an existing support network or b) feel misunderstood or isolated within their own family or circle of friends. This is something we address early on here at Isorropia so as to get our members off to the best possible start with lots of hope and positivity for a brighter-looking future.

Belonging

Belonging has been of particular interest to Psychologists since the pioneering work of Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs, way back in 1943 (See image below). However, studies continue to be done right up to the current day (“Researchers identify a potential neural signature of social belonging” Psypost.org 12/02/23) In this article it was stated that: “Belonging to social groups is one of the basic emotional needs people have. It is crucial for a person’s mental health and wellbeing”.  This should come as no surprise to our members because we talk about this frequently throughout our programme of workshops.

Image: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Dictionary definitions describe belonging as this:

‘a sense of fitting in and feeling like an important member of a group’

vocabulary.com

‘a feeling of being happy or comfortable as part of a particular group and having good relationships with the other members because they welcome you and accept you’

dictionary.cambridge.org

Right from the outset, our work with members is group based. We find this environment works incredibly well for people, despite their initial (and understandable) anxieties.  Members are made aware that they are all in the same or similar situations; we often refer to this as experiencing ‘the same storm in different boats’. Members often report feeling comforted in knowing that they are amongst others who can easily relate to and identify with what they are going through, including the facilitating staff (see Meet the Team to discover more about the lived experience of our Wellbeing Coaches). As recent as the last workshop I facilitated, members have highlighted a strength of the group dynamic being the realisation that they are not alone.

We believe that a sense of belonging continues to grow and develop throughout the Wellbeing Programme through the provision of regular and continued opportunities for member engagement, both in workshops and at our Wellbeing Fayres (previously known as Pamper Days). Following on from this, there are a multitude of activities available to our members in the Community side of Isorropia (Community Umbrella) and this is where friendships really begin to form and connections strengthen. The feeling of belonging that comes from being part of Isorropia plays an enormous role in raising the confidence of our members. They grow in confidence as individuals, but often as a result of feeling the support of other members who journey alongside them. One member described having ‘found my tribe’ which illustrates this point beautifully. Our Community Engagement volunteer, Tasha West calls them ‘The Isorropia Army’.

Image: Quote describing a tribe
Community

‘A social group whose members have something in common’

dictionary.com

‘People who are considered as a unit because of their common interests or social group’  

dictionary.cambridge.org

For us at Isorropia Foundation, this unifying factor or ‘commonality’, is that our members have collectively reached a significant point in their wellness journey i.e.) they have graduated from the Wellbeing Programme into Isorropia’s Community Umbrella. It is at this point that members are more likely to have formed strong social connections and are sufficiently equipped to manage their own ongoing mental health and wellbeing.

Image: Men’s woodland group

Being immersed in a group of like-minded people with common interests is empowering and it does amazing things for our wellbeing! It is no surprise then that ‘Relating’ has been identified by actionforhappiness.org as one of the ‘10 Keys to Happier Living’:

“The people around you offer a valuable pool of support so it’s important to put time into strengthening those connections”

I think there is much more to it though than simply having people around you who can offer support. Have you ever been part of a group who have worked together to accomplish something? I know I have and I believe it is this that really makes the difference – there needs to be something special that bonds you together, don’t you think? None of the definitions above celebrates the wonderful feeling that comes from being part of a community. Our members report experiencing a collective feeling of achievement, at having completed something so important and so powerful together and this can be incredibly bonding for them (some of whom may not have completed anything before, as an individual or as a group and may also feel they have nothing at all to be proud of). We pride ourselves on creating a friendly, non-judgmental environment for our members where they feel safe to explore and grow by gradually building the courage to push themselves out of their comfort zones. Members do the hard work; we are simply there as a safety net and that’s what enables such positive results.

Some of the comments and compliments we have received thus far as an organisation allude to the points raised above. For example:

“I’m enjoying being a part of something again. Something only Isorropia can provide…community.”

“Before Isorropia I had become a recluse. Since being an Isorropia Graduate I now attend two social groups. They’re my therapy.”

“I thought the whole programme was brilliant and so useful. I found a sense of connection with others.”

“I feel connected to others and know that I can talk and open up to others.”

“The Pamper Day has allowed me to tap into things I used to love doing. Isorropia and the community gave me the confidence to push myself.”

It isn’t just Isorropia community groups that our members have access to. Once they reach the point of completing The Gift Course they are also invited to join Isorropia’s online community on Facebook, which offers another form of social connection for members. This has been particularly helpful for those who face challenges in attending social groups due to limitations around availability, transport or mobility.

We also encourage and empower our members to connect with the wider Island community whenever they feel ready to do so. If you pop by to read the next instalment of Inside Isorropia you can look forward to learning more about what our Community Umbrella has to offer and the different ways our members can benefit and get involved. I shall also shine a light on some of the wonderful contributions our members have already made within our unique community.

If you are interested in (or you know someone else who could benefit from) what we have to offer, then please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you…

Until next time,

Lucy xx

P.S.

Before I go, did any of you see this recent photo release of the Princess of Wales from when she was a baby? It was released as part of her #ShapingUs campaign designed to start conversations about early childhood. I managed to find a picture of myself, taken in 1984 at a guess, and it got me thinking about the communities myself and my family were part of at that time. So, here’s a little challenge for you – see if you can dig out a photo or two of yourself or your children (aged under 5 years) and have them to hand, ready for the next post…I have a plan!

3 Comments

  1. John G.Wood

    A lovely piece on “belonging” it really home to me today as it was the first meeting after “The Gift” and this sense of belonging really came home to me as an only child and at 73 I,ve in away felt isolated never really belonging to anything.It certainly taken a long time but I think you’ll agree only being on The Island 9 months through isorropia I feel a genuine comfort feeling of belonging, thank you all at isorropia.

    Reply
  2. Louise G

    A really interesting piece and so true in my case. I certainly have felt a sense of belonging from attending the weekly well-being wander which has led me to more confidence in myself. Though always a work in progress, I find huge comfort in not being isolated. The kindness and welcoming approach of both members and well-being coaches alike over the last 15 months has significantly aided my recovery.

    Reply
  3. Tasha

    Wonderful piece Lucy!
    I shall start digging today 😀

    Reply

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