Social Connectedness Fellowship Program (Winter 2018)

The Social Connectedness Fellowship Program provides recent undergraduates with the opportunity to carry out research, writing, analysis, and outreach in thematic areas related to social isolation and connectedness in the context of community building and international development. The program is intended to provide young people with key professional skills and experience in policy, program, and partnership development to carry forward in their future studies and careers.

Each Fellow co-curates their Fellowship experience together with Professor Kim Samuel and team members from The Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness and core partner TakingITGlobal. Fellows begin by developing a work plan in their chosen area of focus with the goal of identifying pathways to overcoming social isolation and building social connectedness. They then produce a variety of written works, from analytical reports to blog articles (see below).

A key goal of the Fellowship Program is to build a supportive community among Fellows themselves and to create opportunities for them to learn from one another. To that end, Fellows meet weekly via video conference to share updates, challenges and best practices. Another key aspect of the program is outreach. Fellows are encouraged to identify relevant stakeholders and actors associated with their focus areas and to gain experience conducting primary research. They are also given opportunities to connect with a variety of partners in the social connectedness movement to consult their expertise and expand their professional networks. Examples include Human Rights Watch, Special Olympics, The Stop Community Food Centre, Jubilee Sailing Trust, and Synergos, among others.


“Working Abroad: A Case Study of Women Migrant Workers in the United Arab Emirates”

By Fauziat Serunjogi

This paper primarily addresses the unjust treatment of migrant women working in the United Arab Emirates. A few issues that are addressed include: sexual harassment, mobility limitation, wage discrimination, salary delays, housing, and medical conditions. For many people living in developing countries, the UAE is perceived as a land of many opportunities; therefore, when it is the case that migrant people must work under harsh conditions, at wages that are lower than anticipated, important changes must be enforced. A few key recommendations include: providing psychosocial support services to workers, amending the Kafala Sponsorship System, and establishing long-term collaborative partnerships that would bring together key players to end labour exploitation.

“Harnessing the Power of the Arts in Building Social Connectedness”

By Eloïse O’Carroll 

This case study examines the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus (ROHTCC) in England, to illustrate how the arts, and notably singing, has the capacity to foster social connectedness. At its core, this study details all of the ways in which the ROHTCC has made an impact on several peoples’ lives, which leads into a well-argued case for financial investment in community arts programmes. The author argues that, to solve what might be considered a ‘loneliness epidemic’ in the UK, there is a great need for more private-public partnerships, as well as an increase in funding to the voluntary and community sector. The ROHTCC showcases the incredible force of community-led developments, and how much one small choir can empower its community members and strengthen belonging.

“Attitudes Towards Intellectual Disabilities in Romania: Looking at Linkages with Educational Policy and Integrated Youth Programming”

By Ilinca Gradea

This paper advocates for inclusive education and youth programming in Romania. There is a stark divide between mainstream schools in Romania, and what the government classifies as ‘Special Schools’. This divide contributes to the ongoing marginalization of populations with intellectual disabilities, and this paper argues that it should be remedied through inclusive educational practices and youth programming. This paper also highlights how the Unified Sports Program, offered by Special Olympics, invites students with and without intellectual disability to engage with each other through the fun of sport. Programs such as Unified Sports help to foster social acceptance, and ultimately de-stigmatize intellectual disability. In order to ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to make the most out of their education, the Romanian government should establish more inclusive policies and bottom-up initiatives to integrate students with and without intellectual disabilities.

“Social Perceptions: Their Impacts on LGBTQ Refugees and Immigrants Regarding Health Services in Montreal”

By Ignace Nikwivuze

This paper offers a twofold analysis of how negative perceptions and social stereotypes of LGBTQ immigrants and refugees in Montreal affect their self-esteem and their incentive to seek out health services. The underlying argument is that LGBTQ immigrants and refugees endure unique experiences that are not entirely similar to others in the LGBTQ community of Montreal; specifically, there is a higher incidence of internalized pain, trauma, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that LGBTQ immigrants and refugees require special health and psychological services that will allow them to feel comfortable enough to seek out these resources. Key recommendations in this paper include: to increase funding for community-run LGBTQ organizations that provide social and peer support to LGBTQ immigrants and refugees, to train health and social service providers in accordance to the LGBTQ immigrants’ and refugees’ needs, and to engage newcomers about the importance of accepting differences in individuals’ sexual orientations.

“The Challenge of Hunger in Montreal: The Power of Narrative Stories in Solution-Building”

By Paul Berthe

This paper offers insight on how Montreal should go about increasing visibility of the underrepresented, yet highly prevalent number of food insecure residents. There is a focus on how long-term solutions to hunger can be achieved through concerted efforts to raise awareness about food insecurity and poverty, in addition to increasing accessibility of both food-related resources and public services dedicated to providing legal, economic, and social council. In particular, the paper elaborates on food-insecure-related issues such as: ‘food deserts’ in socially deprived areas, a shortage of information and communication between services and vulnerable populations, and the fragmentation of ethnic groups. The paper also expands upon currently-existing programs and policies which bolster access to food, such as ‘Midnight Kitchen’, ‘Second-Life’, and ‘Moisson Montreal’.

“Making Montreal Age-Friendly” 

By Eric Lindsay

This paper assesses the most isolating aspects of Montreal’s built environment, and provides policy recommendations to make Montreal a more ‘Age-Friendly City’. An ‘Age-Friendly City’, by WHO standards, refers to a place where both public and private sites and services are accessible to all ages and abilities. If Montreal is to stay true to their commitment of being an ‘Age-Friendly City’, changes must be made to the city’s built, social, and political environment to ensure inhabitants feel safe and secure. A few key suggestions that carry a lot of merit include: better maintenance of Montreal’s sidewalks, changing crosswalks to give people more time to cross the streets, amending school curriculums to include instruction on the respect and value of older persons, and maintaining an effective presence in policy decisions of creating long-lasting, age-friendly cities.