The Refridgerator Factor – A Cross-cultural Belonging Indicator

Midway through Finding Home’s launch dialogue in 2007, where over 155 participants from diverse backgrounds explored the concept of Finding Home in our current global and local contexts, a participant asked, “How do we make sense of all these individual interpretations of what creates home and arrive at a sense of ‘collective home’ where we can all belong?”

In response to this question, Dianne Shiner from Whidbey Institute relayed a story about working in a foster care project for unaccompanied refugee children. The staff, one day discussed what they felt was the one indicator that cut across diverse cultures and indicated when a child felt a sense of belonging. After many discussions they identified what became known as the “refrigerator factor”. When a child feels comfortable enough to go to the
refrigerator on their own, open the door and help themselves to the food knowing it belonged equally to them – this indicated that a child felt at home – that they truly belonged.!

In reflecting on her story, the challenge was put to the group “How do we create a world, a town, a home, where people feel they belong and can come to the refrigerator and help themselves?”

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