During the pandemic, we saw neighbors getting closer, communities collaborating and the whole world coming together to overcome the loneliness that came with isolation and the uncertainty of it all. Many individuals and families had to quickly adapt to the new normal and rely on more social and welfare support than ever before. Now that we are mostly on the other side, what did we learn, and how is our community coping?
We are now facing new challenges, and everyone is feeling the strain.
Nationally, homelessness is at an all-time high. Repercussions from pandemic relief coming to an end are affecting millions. High inflation, less rentals, increased home prices, stagnated wages and volatile markets have created the illusion of impending doom.
The latest Utah headlines include road rage incidents, teen deaths due to agency oversight, arsenic in the air due to the Great Salt Lake drying up and an esteemed and vital resource, The Utah Pride Center, is possibly closing its doors.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disenfranchised, but we have a lot of power to transform our communities and create lasting change if we take an active approach to community involvement.
While Utah is at the forefront of volunteerism and maintains community engagement in high regard, now is not the time to disengage. There are vast options when it comes to deciding how and where we can spend our time and efforts.
Remember that supporting a cause can look different, depending on your level of comfort. Some might donate their time, give financial contributions or provide in-kind benefits. The way you show up for a cause you care about is not important, the important thing is that you show up in any way you can.
While discussing his “Disagree Better” initiative, Gov. Spencer Cox recently stated in an interview with KSL NewsRadio, “I encourage all Utahns to find ways to get involved in their communities. It’s a great way to make a difference, meet new people and learn new things.”
When citizens work together on common goals, they can develop a sense of community and belonging. This can help to reduce social isolation and build trust between neighbors. The aim is to foster connection and build resilient, cooperative communities.
There are many ways for citizens to get involved in their communities. Whether you are passionate about education, our great outdoors, safety or affordable housing, you have a myriad of options. You can volunteer your time to local organizations, attend community meetings and contact your elected officials.
Community involvement is essential for a healthy democracy. When citizens are involved in their communities, they are more likely to be informed about the issues that affect them and hold their elected officials accountable. They are also more likely to be engaged in the political process and vote.
Taking a passive approach and being uninvolved does not give you the right to complain and criticize. You should be asking yourself how you show up, support and serve your community.
If you find yourself without answers, that’s a good indicator that you need to be more involved. For starters, consider joining a mutual aid group on social media. Make it a family affair and involve your kids, or attend a free community event to get informed on what makes your neighborhood unique.
Go forth, find your cause, find your people, get involved and make a difference.
Carolina Arias, SSW, is originally from Bogota, Colombia. She has called Salt Lake City home since 2001. After obtaining her bachelor’s in Human Services and Psychology, Carolina is currently pursuing her master’s in Social Work at the University of Utah. Carolina has worked for OC Tanner, Department of Child and Family Services, and is currently interning at The Refugee Service Center. Carolina is interested in becoming a global social worker and is passionate about social advocacy, social policies and social justice.
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