The Fourth Strategic Prioritized Goal of the City of Colorado Springs 2009 Strategic Plan is Quality of Life, "an all-inclusive term that includes economic prosperity, an affordable home, gainful employment, clean air and water, quality healthcare, safe and attractive neighborhoods and working environments, ample educational and recreational opportunities, convenient transportation systems, and an active and diverse community which is rich in arts and cultural amenities."
But how many people know this — or care?
At Women Partnering, we walk side by side with financially vulnerable women in their experience of current reality in our city. Each has vision, is working a holistic Individual Development Plan, and is demonstrating responsible and accountable participation. They are networking and helping others in their community.
They may never have heard of the fourth strategic prioritized goal — but every day, they see contradictions in our community's policies and strategies.
They wonder who and what are really important to our city, and often don't experience respect.
They are grateful for the support they do receive; yet they experience nonprofit groups being challenged to do more with less, resulting in reduced and rationed services.
They experience a public transportation system that continues to cost more, requires longer waits and offers fewer services.
Many have received additional education and/or training and have been working to get a job for over a year.
And many wait months for medical care beyond episodic clinic visits, while having virtually given up hope for dental care.
Who cares? I believe we all care and do share a vision of a better future. But these women remind us of the equally important task of giving common persons a speaking and acting part in more completely analyzing our current social reality. Out of this, we can vision and mobilize our entire community for future development.
One concrete step that I propose to improve our community is for each of the persons writing an essay here to convene an open house (or two) before the end of 2009 and to invite those with insider experience and knowledge — the so called "non-experts" who experience the everyday challenges of our city. Ask them to use their own words to name the everyday realities as responsible persons, and to be co-educators and investigators in unveiling reality and actors in moving us toward a new vision. Their voices could become the next essays in the Independent about the state of our city as it relates to their areas of expertise.
Jeannette Kneifel, a Sister of St. Francis of Colorado Springs, has a Ph.D. in social work. She is president/CEO of Women Partnering, a community service created by the Sisters. She has worked with family, group and organizational systems locally, nationally and internationally.