Reflections on Belonging and Our WHY during this Pandemic with Ilene Winokur and Barbara Bray

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Dr. Ilene Winokur runs a podcast called Journeys to Belonging. When this is published, Ilene will be flying back to Kuwait. She has been with her mom in Buffalo, New York since before the stay at home order. Her mom is 95-years-old and will be 96 in July. Having this time with her has been special, but Ilene misses her home. We decided to reflect and talk about what it means to have a sense of belonging and re-define our WHY during this pandemic. 
Barbara: What does it mean to have a sense of belonging? 
Ilene: Belonging is the glue that keeps us together. It’s the thread that helps us weave our own blanket of comfort, especially at difficult times. It is also the peace and serenity that allows us to be alone and happy while not feeling lonely.
Ilene: You wrote and recently published the book Define Your WHY. Why is our WHY so important?
Barbara: Many of us know what we do and maybe how to do what we do. If we don’t know how to do something, we can Google it,  go to YouTube or ask others. Teachers have shared struggles in covering the curriculum when they have little or no time, support, and resources. No one wanted to talk about the WHY behind what they were asked to do. 
All of us are here for a reason. We may not know it or may have no clue what our purpose is, but it’s there. Our WHY is the reason to get out of bed every morning. Yet, our WHY may change as we grow and have new experiences.

Who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW?
~ Fredrich Nietzsche

Barbara: You have been writing about your journey on your blog and now host your podcast. How is writing and sharing ideas with others helping you on your journey?
Ilene:  Writing my blog and listening to guest speak about belonging on my podcast has given me time to reflect on my own sense of belonging. But it really started with people asking me about my life story and how I managed to assimilate and feel comfortable in a life so different from how I grew up. As I thought more about it and learned more about finding a sense of belonging, I realized there were many parallels in my life, and perhaps belonging was the link to feeling comfortable in Kuwait and Buffalo, NY-both places I consider “home”.
Ilene: How has your WHY changed during this pandemic? What does that mean for your blogs and podcast on Rethinking Learning?
 Barbara: My WHY has always been about the stories.  What has changed are the stories and how we are coping during this crisis, the self-care we need to do to cope, and strategies for remote teaching and learning. I started doing reflections on how I am coping through this crisis about a month ago. After Ilene had interviewed me for her podcast, we decided to do another recording about our own experiences during the pandemic.
Barbara: Has your sense of belonging changed since you were staying at home with your mom in New York? What does belonging mean now that you are going back to Kuwait?
Ilene: I now wish I could clone myself and be in two places at once. I’d like to continue staying with my mother, but I also miss my husband and family in Kuwait. Also, two of my children and their spouses live in the USA and I miss them a lot when I am in Kuwait. 
I continue to marvel at the power of connections to support each other and establish friendships across the miles. ~Ilene Winokur (p. 166, Define Your Why)
Check out Ilene’s personal reflections and experiences at

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