Many people define power as possessing strength, influence, confidence, or an ability to do something others can not. As we live our daily lives, we see power play out within the government, politics, and/or big organizations. We rarely think that we, as average human beings, possess our own power.
The HOPE (Helping Others & Promoting Equity) team in Alamosa is made up of young adults between the ages of 18-30 who are committed, value-aligned, and willing to recognize and acknowledge the issues within our rural community by using our own individual power and collective power to make changes.
The HOPE team uniquely defines power as the ability of an individual or a group to have a voice about the decisions within their community that affect their future. Each of the HOPE team members contributes to the team’s Collective Power, this encourages others to stand up for what is right and inspires them to make a change. Collective Power is so crucial, since “a lot of young adults don’t realize they have a voice, [but] collective power helps people find and use their voice for change.”
Over the course of the next several years, the team is aiming to extend its collective power within the community by connecting with other young adults who are the most impacted and building their power to achieve health equity. The team strives for systems change, changes in community norms and narratives, and changes in institutional practices and policies.
The HOPE team defines health equity as achieving fairness by giving people what they uniquely need to live healthy, productive lives. Health equity also entails having awareness of the community we live in such as the different levels of socioeconomic status, lack of employment opportunities, discrimination that continues to take place, language injustices, unmet mental health needs, educational issues, safety issues, and even one’s legal status. All of these factors and many more can make it harder for young adults in the Alamosa community to survive, much less thrive. For some young adults the perception and the need for safety, might make it difficult for them to come out and take a stand on anything. Though, HOPE is working on changing this, so that anyone who wants to take a stand and engage with HOPE can do so safely. Our work is about meeting people where they are at, so we can be there with resources & support when they are ready to take the leap to engage with our team.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, dire health inequities are experienced by communities of color, people with limited English proficiency, LGBTQ communities and others who may have experienced systematic discrimination or exclusion.
Our team is aiming to achieve health equity by implementing some short-term goals in the following ways: building a sense of community and social cohesion in Alamosa, implementing resident-led actions and building an agenda of shared interests and resources. The ultimate aim of these goals is to cause a shift in who has power.
HOPE’s desire is to see young adult community members in a position of power, so that there can be changes in policies, procedures, and practices in and across organizations, institutions and systems that affect the health and well-being of young adults.
Having community members in positions of power is crucial, as they have lived experiences, they are the ones closest to the problems, and have seen the health inequalities that linger within their community. The team has been told many times that young adults are the future of Alamosa.
The HOPE team has initiated their healthy equity work by conducting a community survey in 2020 and are currently conducting one-on-one conversations with young adults in the community, to get an idea of current issues and changes that could potentially be brought to Alamosa. The HOPE team will also focus on bringing the community together by having an issue-choosing event in November 2021. At that time they will choose an issue that is of most importance to the young adults in the community.
The HOPE team has a long path ahead of them to achieve a shift in power, but the team is hopeful that its work will inspire other community members to join them in building collective power to achieve health equity.