Last June, we shared our commitment to immersing ourselves in the dialogue and introspection needed to address systemic racism. And immerse, we have. We have listened, learned, and acted this past year, and while we acknowledge there is much more to be done, we wanted to share with you some of the steps we’ve taken so far.
Through the observations and input of our DEI Task Force, we developed a list of key priorities: 1) the recruitment of Black and Brown staff, volunteers, and board members, 2) the examination of traditions, gender constructs, and Indigenous misappropriation, and 3) education for our community on implicit bias and microaggressions that impact the camper and volunteer experience.
We have made the racial grief gap a learning priority for our team in order to understand and educate others on how grief disproportionately affects people of color. (For example, due to historical racial inequalities in the United States, including poverty, inadequate health care, and criminal victimization, Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to experience the death of multiple family members before turning 30, thereby exacerbating the inequities this population faces.)
For our staff and volunteers, we developed additional training to create awareness of implicit bias towards non-dominant identity groups and to recognize the ways in which we can be allies and advocates of social justice within our organization and beyond.
We had professional DEI facilitated discussions at each board meeting over the last year.
We have attended webinars, read articles and books, reviewed research, and had many, many conversations to lean into the places in ourselves and in our culture and systems that require further examination.
Our goal is to increase the recruitment of people of color to our board, staff and volunteers.
This year, we onboarded two new board members of color who bring tremendous talent and skills to our organization. Additionally, we had meaningful discussions about the importance of diversity and creating an inclusive board environment.
It’s also important that our camp and full-time staff mirrors our camper population in order to better imbed cultural and demographic differences into our community. We set a goal to reach or exceed 25% of volunteers that are BIPOC and for each camp location to closely resemble the camper make-up at that camp (e.g. if a location has 40% BIPOC campers, volunteer make-up at that camp should match that.)
To reach this goal, we have:
- Reserved volunteer spots for people of color until a specified date before filling positions from the overall applicant pool;
- Recruited through corporate DEI departments, historically Black and Brown college groups, fraternities and sororities, and job listing sites targeting diversity in professional, student and youth development organizations;
- Reviewed our recruitment language and interview guides to remove any unintended bias.
- Developed hiring and nominations rubrics that allow us to equitably evaluate candidates according to a culture-add, rather than culture-fit, approach.
We remain committed to broadening accessibility of urgently-needed grief support, including our one-week, no-cost camps.
To do this, we are:
- Focusing outreach efforts on communities that are typically less likely to seek out or receive mental health services and programs;
- Providing travel scholarships for campers to get to camp;
- Providing the necessary tools and apparel (such as toiletries and bathing suits) for campers that arrive without these items;
- Continuously reviewing content to ensure racial equity in our communications (social media, blog posts, website, video, camper and volunteer spotlights, etc.) so that our campers, caregivers and volunteers see people that look like them and know that they belong here.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made, sometimes overwhelmed by the amount left to do, and as always, committed to doing the work for as long as it takes.