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.

When we meet families where they are, we all win

Wearing earrings that said “Young, Black, and Educated” and walking across the stage to  accept my diploma from Salem State University, I felt awash in pride and heard my mom cheering loudly from the crowd.

I knew that this accomplishment wasn’t mine alone — my mother had put in 22 years of hard work to make this moment possible. Every sacrifice she made, every dollar she spent, it was all building toward this moment. 

I see this same relentless determination and willpower in many of the teens and parents I work with at Camp Harbor View. I work as the Community Resource Coordinator here, and just about everyday I see a mom or dad who remind me of my mom — simply doing everything they can so their kids can thrive. It’s so rewarding for me to be able to help families that remind me of my own, and I wanted to share a few of the lessons I keep coming back to as I strive to support folks as completely as possible.

1. Start with an open mind
Families know and feel that our support comes without judgment, and they learn quickly that we’re ready to show up for them through thick and thin. We don’t just offer support in certain ways or during certain hours — we’re here to meet families where they are. Once we establish with a family that we’re 100% committed to meeting them where they are, the work and relationship building becomes almost effortless.

2. Understand cultural differences and varied needs
Although families experience similar struggles, not every family “struggles” the same, and not every family needs support in the same way. When supporting anyone, it is important to make resources equitable, attainable, and fitting for each person.

3. Commit to building long-term relationships
Everyone comes in with their own life experiences. With each family that I work with, I know that it will take time to build trust and relationships. As a mother myself, I know this firsthand. The one thing that I keep in mind is a simple old lesson I got from my mother; always work to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Relatability comes with effort, listening, and practicing that very principle in each interaction. 

It is the mission of Camp Harbor View to open new doors to opportunity, and I am proud to be part of that mission. The families that I work with never cease to amaze and inspire me and I am proud to support them along their journeys. 

With the growth of our family service programs, I know that I will only continue to learn more from our amazing community, and I could not be more excited about the road ahead. 

2022 Beach Ball was Brighter than Ever

We’re incredibly grateful for all those who joined us in celebrating Camp Harbor View on Saturday, May 21st at the SOWA Power Station in Boston’s South End. 

Jack Connors, Jr., co-founder and chairman of Camp Harbor View, was joined by Dr. Anne Klibanski of Mass General Brigham, Jeffrey Leiden of Vertex, and Jack Shields of Shields Health Solutions, in co-hosting this year’s event. 

Thanks to the generous support of donors, we are heading into the summer with the resources we need to provide an unforgettable summer camp experience for 1,000+ young Bostonians, along with comprehensive family services and year-round leadership development programs. To learn more about our work championing Boston’s future leaders, watch this short video that premiered at the event, where you’ll hear directly from two alumni on how CHV helped to shape their childhood, and their limitless futures.

This year’s Beach Ball, our first in-person event since 2019, was produced by Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events. Step inside the venue with the video below highlighting this special night.

For more, check out the full gallery of photos from the event and share your own photos with the hashtag #BeachBallBoston on Instagram

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.

Camp Harbor View joins national movement, launches guaranteed income pilot with UpTogether

50 Families will receive $7,000 per year for two years

Boston, MA – A group of Boston families are the newest champions for the impact of direct cash investments on social and economic mobility. Camp Harbor View recently launched a near $800,000 guaranteed income pilot, in partnership with anti-poverty nonprofit UpTogether, that provides 50 Boston households $7,000 each year for two years. These families are able to use the funds however they choose and do not need to pay it back.

After just five months, families are reporting greater overall financial stability. A participating parent, who wished to remain anonymous, says the program is having transformative effects on her physical and mental wellbeing as well as her financial stability.

“As a single mom, I have worked two jobs for the last six years to make ends meet. With the GI grant, I have been able to focus on my full-time job,” she said. “The time I’ve gained back has improved my focus, given me more time with my children, and allowed me to participate in professional development, which led to a promotion.”

Rooted locally, Camp Harbor View is committed to addressing the pervasive racial and economic opportunity gaps that exist in Boston.

“This pilot is about trusting and empowering families,” Camp Harbor View Chairman Jack Connors, Jr said. “I believe this will prove to be an innovative and necessary approach to partnering with families, ensuring that economic mobility is possible in our city.”

Each of the 50 enrolled families receives $583 in unrestricted cash monthly for the duration of the 24-month pilot. The participants were asked to set at least one financial goal at the start of the pilot and then they are given surveys quarterly—along with a small group of families who are not receiving funds—to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. To measure the efficacy of this two-year pilot, Camp Harbor View engaged an experienced independent evaluator to collect data and study outcomes.

The results from the pilot will have an impact beyond Boston.  In partnership with the Economic Security Project, the Camp Harbor View learnings will be part of a growing body of national research on guaranteed income programs.           

“As someone who lived in Boston for 17 years, and still loves the city, I am beyond excited to see the impact this pilot will have on families here,” said UpTogether CEO Jesús Gerena.  “At UpTogether, we know it’s not just about the impact of unrestricted cash investments on individual households, but most importantly, the exponential impact those dollars will have on entire communities.”

 

About Camp Harbor View: Camp Harbor View works with 1,000+ young Bostonians and their families each year offering a one-of-a-kind summer camp for kids in grades 6-8, year-round leadership development for teens in grades 9-12, and comprehensive family services, including college and career planning, scholarships, clinical support, and food access — all at no cost to families.

About UpTogether: UpTogether is a community, a movement, and a platform that highlights, accelerates, and invests in the initiative people in financially under-resourced communities are taking to improve their lives and move up, together. Using compelling data and personal success stories to transform stereotypes, beliefs, and policies, UpTogether champions the effort to boost long-term economic mobility in communities that have been under-served for far too long.

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Making the season bright [video]

From Thanksgiving dinner to gifts at the holidays, this annual tradition seeks to alleviate family stress and bring kids joy. It’s one of our most meaningful programs for families and donors alike, with both experiencing the generosity of spirit in the holiday season.

Take a look at this heartwarming video to see the Camp Harbor View community’s holiday celebrations with over 400 families from start to finish.

Thanks to the generous support of hundreds of donors, partners, and volunteers, we doubled the number of families reached this year, distributing $101,800 in gift cards for parents to use to purchase their children items on their wishlist, bins with household essentials, and festive holiday supplies. Happy Holidays for all of us at Camp Harbor View!

Partnering with Boston families [video]

At Camp Harbor View we believe that it takes real relationships with the entire family to fully support Boston’s next generation. In this video you’ll meet Paula and three of her kids — Lereca, Bryan, and Gyara. They’ve been part of the Camp Harbor View family for over ten years — and their story shows how powerful we can be together when we invest in Boston families.