What does community mean to you?
A community is the foundation for the development of ideas that create healthy neighborhoods, and the development process encompasses much more than individual effort.
Santa Ana resident Karina Torres, a partner with Building Healthy Communities said, “Community is a second family that makes you stronger if you’re united and looking out for each other.”
Collectively moving forward towards change is the strength that makes the difference in Santa Ana. Through Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities the process for change has been centered on empowering and equipping those who are experts in the needs of the city: the residents. The SABHC Leadership Institute (LI) and Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities Initiative (SABHC) work in tandem with an equal vision: to transform the diverse community of Santa Ana, and ensure health, equity, and power.
From left: SABHC Leadership Institute graduates Eleazar Diaz. Alejandra Guzman, Karina Torres, Leticia Rivera, Vianey Quiroz
The leadership training program supports community engagement and promotes awareness of pressing neighborhood issues that must be resolved. The mission of the program is to provide members and partners with the skills needed for community engagement and the knowledge to take civic action, proactively improving the quality of life in their neighborhood. The program, which launched on Feb. 28, 2018, is a 10-week commitment course. Members are encouraged to advocate to make positive changes that will benefit the city of Santa Ana.
For community residents this program is an opportunity to grow both in knowledge and in commitment. Karina Torres, a resident of Santa Ana for 22 years, was one such participant. Karina, who is involved in one of the organizations that is part of the SABHC initiative, was inspired to get further involved through the Leadership Institute because of her family and their future.
“I learned many things but one of the most important is that there are many things that we need to help with in my community. Even if my family is not being affected by all of them in the future they will be and it’s up to me to try to make a difference with them and any organizations that we have available.”
Efforts thus far include high quality trainings and interactive sessions, where food and drinks are available for families. The Leadership Institute sessions hosted a wide range of topics such as public speaking, wellness, city structures, and community building to support the growth of the participants. For Karina, this was an opportunity to “learn many things that I was not aware are happening in my community and also to learn from different organizations what they are fighting for because it’s a battle but it needs warriors to make the change.”
SABHC Leadership Institute Graduate Reyna Artero.
Despite some challenges, this program has been a success as it has supported the development of people ready to make a change in their community. This first cohort started with 43 participants and graduated 31 participants from various neighborhoods in Santa Ana. They had 28 women and three men ranging in age from 15 to 51. 100% of evaluated participants said they would recommend or invite others to participate in the Leadership Institute and would like to stay involved, even if they didn’t know how. There was a great deal of personal growth and empowerment that can be seen from participants and a deep desire to become active parts of the change in Santa Ana.
The leadership Institute will continue to support this growth through more cohorts with the next one starting mid-July. All Santa Ana residents are invited to participate no matter your experience in organizing. Anyone and everyone can make a difference in their community and has something to contribute. For those of you unsure if this is something you can do, we leave you with these parting words from Karina: “It’s [The Leadership Institute] an enrichment that no one can take away from you; it’s an experience where you learn everything that’s inside of Santa Ana and a real life changer to grow from.”