Inclusion at camp
February is JDAIM (Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month), a month where we are encouraged to recognize and celebrate diverse identities and abilities in our community. As we observe and participate we want to share some of the ways that the OSRUI community is thinking and actively working towards all Jews being included and celebrated in our community.
Within our OSRUI community we continually strive to raise awareness and foster the acceptance and inclusion of all people.
DEI Working Group
Throughout the past few months, we have been working with a group of alumni, parents, and staff to take a critical look at our DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) practices and assess where we can focus on improving our commitments. This working group wrestled with tough questions about who we are as a community and how we want to grow. The outcome of these conversations show the positive change that can and have already started to take place.
OSRUI’s commitment to strengthen our work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sits on these fundamental principles:
- Each person in our community (staff, camper, volunteer, community member) is an individual and has individual needs – and individual definitions of success. We strive to understand and respect every person’s needs and definitions of success according to their ability, race, gender.
- Staff orientation and training will inclusive of all staff (counselors, segel (faculty), medical team, site team, security, hourly staff). Everyone in our community is part of living and upholding our values.
- We recognize our commitment to equity is ongoing and requires multiple touchpoints and continuous active learning opportunities.
These principals are helping us to identify the areas where we can invest in actively opening our tent to Jews with disabilities, Jews of Color, Interfaith Families, and the LGBTQ+ community.
The Yashar Initiative
Last year, OSRUI was awarded a grant (The Yashar Initiative) through The Foundation of Jewish Camping to further camp’s accessibility for campers and staff. This grant has allowed us to expand and enhance both physical spaces at camp and the training we employ for our staff.
As many of you know, we are currently finishing construction on the bathrooms in our Winterized Cabins. These were some of our oldest bathrooms on camp and lacked many elements that would make them inclusive to our community. When the project is finished (by summer 2021) these bathrooms will have 10 private showers, ADA accessible toilets, single bathroom stalls that can double as private changing areas, and sinks that are accessible to those who use wheelchairs.
The grant is also helping us to create a sensory room at camp. This space is designed with elements that enable campers who have are experiencing challenges at camp to take a break with devices and an environment to calm their senses. Spaces like these are common at schools and other public venues like sports arenas and public parks. For campers with disabilities or those who experience sensory challenges, the designation of such an area can be critical in ensuring their success at camp. Additional training for our staff will lead to increased support for our campers in each eidah (unit). Some examples include:
- Ensuring group announcements and instructions are understandable both visually and orally.
- Training in adapting programming to allow for campers to be in comfortable physical positions (standing, sitting, or moving).
- Teaching our madrichim (counselors) to be sensory aware in indoor and outdoor spaces. This means considering how noise, temperature, and group size affect individuals.
Our camp care staff continue to support both our staff and campers throughout the summer. We will continue to expand our staff training and learning in inclusion practices not just during staff week, but also throughout the summer and off-season months. These trainings will help our entire staff become educated, aware and equipped to help all members of our community find success at camp.
Debbie’s (she/her/hers) goal is to create a space where every camper can be successful at camp. She works on the OSRUI professional staff team year-round, and in the summer leads the OSRUI Camp Care team, which helps problem solve camper and staff concerns as they arise by working with campers, staff, and parents.
If you want to learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at camp you can schedule time to talk to Debbie by clicking HERE.