Communities across B.C. bring ideas to the table to fight social isolation

Potlucks, coffee dates and pizza parties are being held all over the province to address the growing feelings of isolation and loneliness in B.C. communities.

The On The Table event connected people around the province to discuss issues in their own communities

The Vancouver Foundation created the On The Table event which took place on Sept. 13 to provide a framework for meaningful discussion and connect community members after a 2017 survey found isolation and loneliness were top concerns for residents of Metro Vancouver. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Potlucks, coffee dates and pizza parties were held all over the province Thursday to address the growing feelings of isolation and loneliness in B.C. communities.

A 2017 report by the Vancouver Foundation shows that isolation and loneliness are among the top concerns for residents of Metro Vancouver, and this year the foundation turned to the community for ideas on how to change that.

The foundation, founded in 1943, distributes millions each year to community projects and programs, as well as registered charities in partnership with its donors.

The On The Table initiative encouraged people to gather and talk about the issues most relevant in their day-to-day lives — and share some food.

"Somehow when you bring people together over food… I find it brings the best out of people and they are more relaxed than when you're meeting in a more formal environment," said Mohamed Ehab, co-founder of Changemakers Vancouver who immigrated to Canada from Egypt in 2008.

He had no friends or family waiting for him in Vancouver, so he said he put in the effort to find a community by hosting potlucks and movie nights at his home.

"It did magic for me... it can help build social connections, especially for newcomers."

The survey found that a large number of people who reported feeling lonely were between the ages of 18-24, which was surprising to Vancouver Foundation president and CEO, Kevin McCourt.

He said the demographic they often focus on when discussing isolation is seniors and this new information made McCourt rethink how to approach the issue.

"We found that often people are looking for a spark, something to trigger that action, and when On The Table comes along they have this framework to … get together with our neighbours, with our coworkers, with our peers," he said.

McCourt said they had 350 hosts registered with an estimated 4,000 people participating overall in events held across the province Thursday.

The topics discussed at each event will be collected and shared with the public to provide a snapshot of what issues residents in B.C. feel are most important in their community.

"We know one meal isn't going to solve loneliness, but the ideas we pick up, the ideas people share with us, those are the ones we're keen on," McCourt said.

With files from The Early Edition, BC Today

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

Vancouver Foundation event On The Table aims to create connections across the province 6:19
Kevin McCort, president and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation, Mohamed Ehab, co-founder of Changemakers Vancouver, and Andrew Wister, director of the Gerontology Research Centre at Simon Fraser University. 48:22

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