Breaking down community barriers

Photo by Kha Vo

Photo by Kha Vo

On Sept. 14, a barbeque was held at MacGregor Senior Public School in Waterloo to promote community cohesion amongst students and permanent residents living in the Macgregor-Albert neighbourhood.

This is the second year the barbecue has taken place. Despite being rained out on Saturday, forcing them to reschedule for Sunday, it had a turnout of about 120 attendees.

According to Carrie Stevenson, one of the organizers of the barbeque, past relationships between students and long-term residents have been somewhat tenuous. As a result, she and her partner Kae Elgie had decided to organize an event to promote positive relations within the community.

Elgie had initially organized a barbeque three years ago in order to celebrate the fact that the neighbourhood had been labeled a designated heritage conservation area. Following this, Elgie decided that it would be a good idea to invite the students living in the area in order to support community cohesion.

“That’s where the barbeque came from: to sort of break down the sort of us versus them mentality and to make it an inclusive neighbourhood,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson also believes that in such a community it is important for there to be positive relations and communication amongst the members.

Relationships between students and permanent residents can sometimes become complicated, as both types of residents lead very different lifestyles.

“We have people who have been in the neighbourhood for more than 30 years and then we have students who come in at a four month basis and sometimes several years. We all have to get along. We live beside each other. We want that sense of community,” said Stevenson.

Sue Enns, one of the permanent residents who lives on Dorsett Street believes having students living within the community is important. She explained that everybody needs to be considerate of one another in order for residents to get along.

“When it comes to evenings, you want to let loose. That’s the issue that often is addressed by students and permanent residents, but I think it is being well addressed by now by the programs that are being run. We’ve noticed a significant change,” Enns said.

Rawlric Sumner, a biomedical sciences student at the University of Waterloo, lives at the corner of Albert Street and Young Street West at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house. He, along with other fraternity members, were volunteering at the event.

“What we probably should be able to do is more community events like this, where residents are able to meet the students,” Sumner said. “Make it seem like it is more than just people who come and move in and out every term, actual people you get to know, and increase the community feeling about it.”

Sumner encouraged other students living in the Macgregor-Albert neighbourhood to get involved within the community and meet the permanent residents.

City councillor for Ward 7, Melissa Durrell, also made an appearance at the barbeque on Sunday. She expressed the need for community cohesion and growth amongst the permanent residents and students.

“When you live in a city where a third of your population is students, we all have to figure out how to live together,” said Durrell.

“It’s very rare for us to be able to have an event like this where it is not politicized, and we’re just eating a burger together and getting to know each other,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful and I hope we will continue to do this every year.”

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