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Sioux Falls Launches Compassion Initiative

Kealey Bultena
Two college student interns champion a campaign called Compassionate Sioux Falls.

Sioux Falls leaders are launching an initiative called Compassionate Sioux Falls. It aims to engage community members and promote inclusion. The effort starts with a document adopted by hundreds of cities around the country, and local advocates are working to encourage people in Sioux Falls to operate on its principles.

Compassionate Sioux Falls organizers are encouraging people to engage with others who may be different. Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether says relations can become tense.

"We still have issues. We still have opportunities. We still have folks who don’t believe that when somebody is unique, somebody brings a different perspective, someone is different, that that’s a good thing. We actually still believe that there’s folks who think that throwing a punch is just okay. Let’s focus on the positive, not the punch," Huether says.

The Compassionate Sioux Falls initiative starts in the city’s Human Relations department. A citizen told a local leader about a Charter for Compassion, and she encouraged two college student interns to explore what it could mean for Sioux Falls. Maggi Ibis is one of them.

“Compassion is sort of seen as a feeling, and we want to see tangible, real action being taken.  And it’s not just about numbers. We want to see sort of a different atmosphere in Sioux Falls and how our initiative has impacted Sioux Falls in that way in making it more compassionate,” Ibis says. “It’s not just about feeling more compassionate towards others. It’s about doing things to show you are more compassionate.”

Project organizers say that takes the form of distributing warm scarves to people who need protection from the cold and spotlighting people and organizations that promote respect and equality. College student Wagaye Mesele says citizens can embrace the Compassionate Sioux Falls tagline "growing from tolerance to acceptance." She explains how one woman felt when she moved to the city.

“People just walked past her, did not engage with her – so that’s sort of the tolerance aspect of it,” Mesele says. “But when we talk about acceptance, we’re talking about accepting them into our community, engaging with them, that sort of thing. So not just having them live here but actually having them be a part of Sioux Falls.”

Both women say Sioux Falls is increasing in diversity as it grows, and compassion promotes understanding and embracing differences.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).