I would just like to introduce myself to the group. My name is Melissa (Missy) Whaling and I am a newly graduated Masters student from Western. My degree focused on community health and development, particularly in communities in Mwanza, Tanzania. I met Mary Simpson and Denise at the Student-to-Business conference in London in January and was very intrigued by the issues facing the community of Wardsville and the various upcoming project initiatives that were mentioned.
I must admit, I am a Londoner, so I am only familiar with Wardsville’s community workings from websites and from the information that I gathered from Mary and Denise. But, what I do know, is that I am open and interested in learning more about this community and how I can apply my skills and knowledge where needed.
I have particular expertise in studying ‘the community’ and in recognizing the importance of ‘place’, specifically in relation to health. Although there are many definitions for the word ‘community’, I believe that there are elements of the community that go beyond specified and defined geographical boundaries. To me, these elements weigh far more heavily on the lives of citizens and include such aspects as: sense of identity and belonging; common language, rituals and traditions; shared norms, values and beliefs; shared needs and shared resources; emotional connections; as well as shared historical, political and cultural experiences. Intertwined with the physical aspects of ‘place’, it is clear that the dynamics and intensity of social and environmental barriers can seriously affect community programs and the capacity of the community to effect change.
I believe that place can be described as both an objective location that has distinct characteristics or it may be considered a subjective social construct that carries with it specific meanings and symbols. I also believe that human actions, patterns and meanings are structured into the communities (places) in which people live. ‘Place’ is therefore, not just an arena for daily life, but can be viewed as a hub of felt value that is embodied in the experience and ambitions of people. This felt value and embodiment of experiences ultimately influences health and overall well-being. I believe that to be attached to a place, particularity a home or a community, is a fundamental human need, as places assist in the development and configuration of ourselves and our identities.
Melissa (Missy) Whaling