Making racial equity real, together

We talk a lot about racial equity at CHV. And it’s a term we hear all the time—it shows up in the work we do, the media we consume, the news we watch, and sometimes even at the dinner table. But what does it truly mean? And how can we make real progress towards that goal?

We’re proud of the impact our programs have in Boston, but we know we don’t have all of the answers. Far from it.

So we recently posed a big question to the people of Boston — and we plastered it on billboards and across social media. “How can we make racial equity real?”

And you responded! Not only did you respond, but you embarked on deep, meaningful discussions with those around you. We appreciated seeing so many diverse perspectives from our community — here are a few of the thoughtful answers we got:

“Learn together about how to talk to each other about racism and the history of racism in Boston.” — Giselle F.

“Build and provide access to affordable, fresh nutrient filled food in EVERY Boston community.” — Sandra K.

“We need to make sure every civic and business investment we make has racial, social, and environmental equity at its core.” — Matt K.

This is a city (and a country) with a complicated, troubling racial history. We aren’t going to reach equity overnight. But if we take concrete steps together we can keep moving in the right direction. We’re here for it. Are you with us?

New partnership with Biogen Foundation helps address social determinants of health for Boston teens and families

Camp Harbor View announced a new three-year partnership with Biogen and the Biogen Foundation to promote the wellbeing of more than 200 Boston families by helping address social determinants of health through increased food security, more equitable access to clinical mental health resources, post-secondary education, and career development pathways.

The Biogen Foundation’s support will bolster Camp Harbor View’s Family Health Initiative, a holistic approach to youth development that empowers Boston’s next generation leaders and furthers positive economic, social and health outcomes. This funding will make it possible for Camp Harbor View to connect teens and their families to greater food security, one-to-one clinical health services, social-emotional learning, and skill building and career development opportunities. As part of this relationship, participants also have the opportunity to explore the field of life sciences by visiting Biogen’s CoLab, a community space offering life science training from employees and leading local educators. The Biogen Foundation’s commitment will also establish and fund annual Biogen Scholars, awarding three graduating high school seniors with $40,000 scholarships to pursue their post-secondary plans.

“We are grateful for Biogen’s leadership on key health equity initiatives. Social emotional learning, clinical support, and food security are essential wraparound support that promote economic and social mobility,” Camp Harbor View CEO Sharon McNally said. “Partnering with, and trusting in, Boston families, this is a meaningful investment in the next generation.”

“Biogen believes that everyone deserves access to a supportive ecosystem that enables them to live the healthiest, fullest life possible,” Biogen Vice President of Asset Development and Portfolio Management and the Chair of the Biogen Foundation’s Board of Directors Teresa Cachero said. “This partnership with Camp Harbor View reflects our credo of caring deeply, and it will enable us to provide assistance in many aspects of a family’s life, from social to health.”

The partnership, inclusive of Biogen sponsorship for events, will total $500,000.


About Camp Harbor View: Established in 2007, Camp Harbor View (CHV) is a youth-centered, multi-service organization with year-round programs that address the long-term wellbeing and economic mobility of underserved Boston youth and their families. Our shared vision is an inclusive, equitable Boston where every young person and family has the opportunity and resources to succeed. To pursue this vision, we offer free, high-quality summer camp and year-round programs, nurturing deep relationships and empowering a thriving community of future leaders and their families. Additional information is available at www.campharborview.org.

About Biogen Foundation: Established in 2002, the Biogen Foundation seeks to advance better health by collaborating with high-impact partners in local communities. Through the Foundation, we strive to make an impact beyond our medicines, focusing our grantmaking on equitable access to healthcare by strengthening health systems and providing access to nutritious food, a critical social determinant of health. For more information, please visit: www.biogen.com/company/biogen-foundation.

There’s no equity without all of us

Have you seen CHV’s new billboards around town? Well, now you’ve at least seen a photo of them right here. I am somebody who likes to speak my mind, and I am so proud to be part of an organization where we say the important stuff out loud.

Our new billboards around Boston are aiming to amplify and continue conversations that many of you are having around this city. What does racial equity look like, really? How do we go beyond a ‘level playing field’ and all of the other platitudes we hear all the time, and make true, lasting progress toward a Boston where we see equitable outcomes for all. Where the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in don’t dictate your opportunities (or your health, or your safety, or your housing… you get the idea). 

We’re quite proud of what we’re building at Camp Harbor View — our free summer day camp is heading into its 17th summer, our year-round Leadership Academy is thriving, and our Guaranteed Income Program is accelerating economic mobility for families with cash payments. But of course we don’t have all the answers, and we can’t do it alone. 

So we’re putting out the call — we want to know what your ideas are for a more equitable Boston.

We’re so grateful to this community for all of the support of CHV’s teens and families, and to everyone working hard to pursue breakthroughs for equity in Boston.

Let’s keep going, together.

CHV’s Guaranteed Income pilot project is having a transformative impact for Boston families

New data released this week by Camp Harbor View show that direct cash payments to Boston families are having a transformative impact on nearly every aspect of their lives. 

The Boston Globe covered the new data in an article on Nov. 8th — read it here.

It has been just over a year since two nonprofits, Camp Harbor View and UpTogether, teamed up to launch a privately funded $800,000 guaranteed income pilot program. The program provides 50 Boston households $7,000/year for two years, distributed in monthly payments of $583. These families are able to use the funds however they choose and do not need to pay it back.

Evaluations of survey data from the first year of the program provides strong evidence that cash payments to families helps them relieve economic stress, achieve stability, and invest in growth. The pilot also tracks a group of families who are not receiving funds in order to understand the qualitative and quantitative impact of the pilot. 

Initial data show that:

  • Families receiving the payments are 40% less likely to have unmet household needs than the group not receiving payments (eg. child care, heating costs, or dental care)
  • During the first year of the pilot, families receiving payments reduced their risk of distress by 23%, while families not receiving payments had an 11% decrease.

Families receiving payments are more likely to…

  • Be able to pay bills
  • Save money consistently
  • Have over a month’s worth of income saved for an emergency
  • Pay for household needs like transportation, groceries, and childcare

Tierra Lyons, a parent in the program, said joining the program was a “no brainer” and that the monthly income has helped to stabilize her family’s finances and allowed her to save toward a down payment for a house.

“I had just never experienced this level of radical generosity. Now I can put all of my time, my energy, my resources into just supporting my family because I know that I’m supported as a parent,” Lyons said.

Camp Harbor View Executive Vice President Lisa Fortenberry said the early results are very encouraging — but not surprising.

“It’s an idea that seems too obvious to be as groundbreaking as it is,” said Camp Harbor View Executive Vice President Lisa Fortenberry. “People know what they need to support a healthy family, and with trust and partnership, they can make changes that lead to better physical and mental health, better housing, and education and career paths.”

Jan 2024 update: For numbers and insights from two-year pilot, see our full report on Direct Cash for a Better Boston.

Ready to Run campaign launches across Greater Boston

Today, we’re proud to launch a campaign called “Ready to Run” featuring young people from our programs on billboards and on video screens across the city of Boston and suburbs.

Highlighting CHV’s partnership with Boston teens and families, the campaign will feature on two billboards on the Southeast Expressway (I-93), at Boston Logan Airport, across other transportation hubs and shopping centers across the metro area along with digital media.

Photo of a digital Camp Harbor View billboard on route 93 in Boston that says "WE'RE READY TO LIFT UP THIS TOWN" with an image of one teen helping another on the ropes course on the summer camp island.

We’re also launching a new short video about our work — including summer camp, the Leadership Academy, and our partnerships with families on guaranteed income and economic mobility.

Our goal with this campaign is to introduce Camp Harbor View to a new generation of Bostonians and raise awareness across Greater Boston about the impact CHV is having every single day. Like the billboards say, these young leaders are ready to run this town — and we’re ready to do everything we can to make that happen.

Friendships are made, a ferry ride away, at Camp Harbor View

BOSTON (The Boston Globe) — Nobody says good morning like Chazz Guerra says good morning.

“G-O-O-D M-O-R-N-I-N-G,” Guerra half sang, half shouted into a bullhorn in front of the Great Hall. There are few things Guerra, a 25-year-old camp counselor, likes more than The First Day of Camp.

More than 200 Camp Harbor View middle schoolers were assembled in front of him on the sports fields, wilting in the hot and humid conditions around 9 a.m. on Monday — a tough crowd.

Camp Harbor View is a free summer camp for Boston middle schoolers on the southern end of Long Island in Boston Harbor. The Great Hall is the mess hall in the center of camp, with the ferry dock, sports fields, and high-ropes course to the north and the pool and arts pavilion to the south.

Camp Harbor View provides summer camp experience for local youths free of charge

BOSTON (Boston 25 News) — Camp Harbor View is the brainchild of former Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Boston businessman Jack Connors, who wanted to find a use for the then-untouched land on Long Island. The idea was just to engage middle-schoolers during summer months. But whether it’s learning to sail, fish, climb a rock wall or learn a new sport, the free summer camp has become so much more to the city’s young people over the last 15 years.

Like so many of our campers, I found my voice at CHV

In December of 2001 I was in front of my 6th grade class, presenting for the first time. I kept my eyes cast down to the floor and held my notes in front of my face, quietly reading them. Speaking in front of my peers terrified me.

Today, some of my coworkers would be surprised to hear that about me. Especially the coworkers who have seen me on stage on a camp morning singing my favorite camp song, Princess Pat, or attempting to play “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars on the ukulele at the staff talent show.

Our campers first start at Camp Harbor View the summer before 6th grade. Many of them are as shy as I was at that age. Now, add in a ferry trip to an island with 249 other kids that they don’t know and activities like sailing and rock climbing that they may have never experienced.

Since joining Camp Harbor View in 2018, I’ve met several CHV alumni who describe the 6th-grade versions of themselves – the first-time camper versions – as shy. Meeting them now, you would never expect these young people to have ever been described as shy. They’re bold and confident, sharing their ideas and thoughts without hesitation.

At Camp Harbor View, with the help of caring staff, they find their voice. Their confidence. It’s where I found mine.

Although I’ve been working at summer programs since I was 18, there was always a part of me that was the shaky 11-year-old version of myself, quietly presenting on Christmas traditions in Belgium. Under the leadership of Executive Director Lisa Fortenberry (and my caring staff), I’ve found my voice at Camp Harbor View by being challenged every day.

A few days into camp, the shy campers have met their peers and group leaders and the shell begins to crack. Our group leaders provide campers the support they need to make new friends and try new things. At the climbing wall and on the high ropes course, you hear camper and staff voices alike call out encouraging words. At the pool, you hear the gentle instructions from lifeguards as they show campers how to blow bubbles in the shallow end or perfect their diving form in the deep end.

Our staff provides a space for young people  to safely take risks, which in turn helps them to grow into themselves, building confidence and finding their voice. By the end of their session, they might perform in the talent show. And maybe in a few years, when they turn 18, they’ll lead the morning camp song.

Can an extra $800 a month lift someone out of poverty? Local nonprofits put cash to the test.

BOSTON (The Boston Globe) – Cities aren’t the only proponents of giving no-strings-attached cash to people in need. Here come the nonprofits.

The national movement, which had its local roots in Chelsea and spread to Cambridge, aims to empower low-income households with monthly stipends and settle an age-old debate about whether we can trust poor people with money instead of having them constantly jump through hoops to receive aid.

Advocates of so-called guaranteed income programs believe that low-income households know best how to lift themselves out of poverty rather than being told what to do. It’s that combination of confidence and cash that can help people move up the economic ladder.

At least three local nonprofits have launched pilots in recent months: Camp Harbor View with 50 families that are receiving $583 a month for two years; United South End Settlements with 16 families that are getting $800 a month for 18 months; and UpTogether — in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Harvard Business School, and others — has embarked on a research project providing nearly 1,500 families with varying amounts of money and social capital over 18 months.