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

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!

Camp Harbor Views

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Camp Harbor Views – a free online experience for families, supporters, and champions of our mission – celebrated the resiliency of our community and shared our views on the past, present, and future of the organization.

Hosted by Jenny Johnson of NESN’s Dining Playbook and Camp Harbor View’s Advisory Council, it was an evening full of surprises. Over 700 attendees heard from organization leaders, champions, and a few special guests sharing stories of joy, hope, and the community that made it all possible. The celebration was capped off with four impressive Leaders in Training sharing their 2020 experiences and why they’re hopeful for the future.

Watch the evening’s program from start to finish below to hear more young leaders share their perspectives.  We promise it will leave you energized and inspired.

Camp Harbor View is made possible by the generous support of donors. We hope you’re inspired to continue to invest in the future of Boston with us. Please consider donating to support our mission and share the magic of Camp Harbor View with family, friends, and fellow Bostonians by following us on social media. Thank you for being a part of this community.

Celebrate #BostonBlackHistory With Us

We’re excited to continue #BostonBlackHistory this February in celebration of Black History Month, posting stories on the legacy of Black history in our wonderful and culturally rich city across our social media channels and encouraging everyone in Boston to join the conversation by sharing stories of their own.

Leaders in Training in our program helped brainstorm and develop the stories we’re telling. History matters and representation matters – and through this project we seek to highlight the great diversity and character of the city of Boston.

Here are just a few of our favorites from the stories told by teens in our program and by members of this community so far. Do you have one to add? Post it to your social channels with the hashtag #BostonBlackHistory or send it our way via email at info@campharborview.org or Instagram @campharborview. Please join us in raising awareness of these important stories.

#BostonBlackHistory posts

#BostonBlackHistory posts

Camp Harbor View seeks to impact racial & economic inequality in Boston

At Camp Harbor View, we often ask ourselves if we’re doing enough. Are we doing enough for our campers, Leaders in Training and staff? Are we doing enough for the families of the youth we serve?  About six months ago, we decided that the answer to the last of those important questions was “NO.”

When the Boston Globe published its recent series on racial income disparity in Boston, one of the stunning statistics shared was that the average net worth of families of color in the city is $8.00.  That’s not a typo – $8.00.  Camp Harbor View has always been committed to promoting equity and opportunity in Boston, but this series stirred our desire to do more. Encouraged and supported by the Board of Directors, we decided to begin with Camp Harbor View families; to learn from them about the obstacles and hurdles they face with respect to economic mobility and to work with them to design pilot solutions to some of the most intractable problems they encounter.

We have taken the first step by engaging the services of the consulting team of Turahn Dorsey and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond to lead us through a process of information-gathering with families and LITs from our program, and then to work with family representatives and an advisory board composed of corporate leaders to create short and long-term solutions of varying size and scope.

Racial and economic inequality has long been the norm in Boston.  We know that we cannot fix a problem of this magnitude, but we believe that we might be able to have an impact on at least a small group of families.  Perhaps that grows into something more substantial and perhaps we will create a model that can be replicated.  We realize this is a tall order, but we feel a deep responsibility to the families who have placed their trust in us, so we’re off and running.  We’ll keep you posted.

Meet the interns keeping us healthy

Two Camp Harbor View alumni are interning this summer at local healthcare organizations. Check out Q&As below with Megan Michta & John-Michael Louis.

Megan Michta
Megan Michta
  • 10-week internship at MGH Liver Center
  • Rising Sophomore at UMass Amherst
  • Studying Public Health & Environmental Science

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

 I started attending Camp Harbor View as a camper when I was 11 years old and have participated every year since then – over 9 years now! In this time, Camp Harbor View made me the hard worker that I am today.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

I really appreciate that Camp Harbor View instills strong leadership values into all campers and staff. It’s so refreshing to see and hear young children discussing respect, courage, responsibility, character, and community. As a camper, I never thought much about it, but as a Leader in Training and staff member, I realized how important it is to talk about leadership with kids and shape them into active and engaged members of not only the Camp Harbor View community but also their own families, neighborhoods and schools.

What are you doing this summer at Mass General Hospital?

My internship at MGH combines my interest in public health and my love for patient care very well and it’s very exciting because it’s my first job in medicine. I’m learning about different liver diseases as well as researching what factors could be contributing to them and how they could be reversed.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I challenged myself to be the best version of myself so that I could be a role model for my campers. I also learned to adapt and stay calm in stressful situations. The caring and patient nature working with the kids at camp has transitioned into effectively communicating with patients and treating them with respect and kindness. The healthcare field is intertwined between many different people – doctors, nurses, research coordinators, EMTs, insurance companies and more. The communication and teamwork skills I learned at camp are a great foundation for working in healthcare since there needs to be constant communication about patient care.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

Working in clinical research has allowed me to explore many different parts of medicine, including: going on rounds with the hepatologists, shadowing weight loss surgeries and liver biopsies, aliquoting blood samples, screening clinic schedules, going through patient charts and learning about the research process and institutional review board (IRB), and much more!

What’s next for you?

This summer I have decided that I have definitely found my place in the world through medicine. Nothing excites me more than hearing about a new clinical trial that is working to treat a disease or seeing doctors in the Emergency Room save lives. After I graduate, I’m excited to pursue a Master’s in Public Health and then eventually my MD!

John-Michael Lewis
John-Michael Louis
  • 12-week internship at Madaket Health
  • Rising Junior at UMass Lowell
  • Studying Computer Engineering

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

For eight years! I first had the opportunity to be a camper then a Leader in Training and then a member of the summer staff.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

Leadership and inclusivity. I met all sorts of people when I came to camp as a boy. I learned how to build relationships of all kinds and made lifelong friends. At Camp Harbor View I grew to be a man.

What are you doing this summer?

This year, through Camp Harbor View, I received the opportunity to intern at Madaket Health, a healthcare tech startup in Cambridge that is working on streamlining, automating and reducing errors in the Medicare system. This is my first internship and I didn’t know what to expect going into it. From day one at Madaket I’ve felt welcomed and included in the community. The work we do at Madaket is very much team-based and requires a lot of communication – similar to camp.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I learned how to lead by example while also building up those around me. In the professional setting, this allows me to receive feedback well and act on it. On the island I also learned to take initiative in anything I do despite not knowing the outcome – taking that risky first step goes along way regardless of where I end up. Whether it was on the rock wall or swimming for the first time, Camp Harbor View really prepared me for uncertainty and taught me how to rise to the occasion in new situations. I’ve used this in meetings to find the courage to speak up and share my point of view.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

This summer internship experience has opened up a world of opportunity for me. Personally, it’s shown me what type of job, company and work environment suits me best. On a broader scale, I’ve learned about the structure of large corporations vs. startup companies and working on both the front- and back-end of the Madaket system has given me a new appreciation for potential impact of coding, artificial intelligence and software development.

What’s next for you?

This internship has reconfirmed that I want to get a job in coding and software development after I graduate. I’m so grateful to Camp Harbor View for connecting me with Madaket. I may not be at camp this summer, but I’ve definitely taken my Camp Harbor View experience and relationships with me. Not only did the program shape who I became but it’s shaping where I’m going.

Up for the Challenge: Campers Build Confidence & Character on the Ropes Course

Arriving at Camp Harbor View the challenge course immediately catches the eye. With a rock wall towering over 50 feet above the flat Long Island landscape, it’s hard to miss. It’s a sign you’ve reached Boston’s Island of Opportunity and a symbol of summer fun. Not only is the challenge course a blast, but it’s also a powerful tool to teach campers leadership skills and teamwork while developing their confidence and trust in their peers. 

Camp Harbor View is built around opening opportunities for young people to explore, learn, and experience as much as possible — all year long. Youth should feel comfortable and safe and yet have opportunities to stretch and discover. Some take to the arts pavilion, where they push their creative boundaries. Others seek sailing and swimming and sports, and everyone gets a chance on the challenge course.

The course empowers campers’ critical thinking and creative problem solving. An important part of the experience is learning from frustrations and disappointments and working together to successfully adapt. 

Balance beam

Effective teamwork is essential in every exercise.  “While our campers – middle school kids from throughout the City of Boston – swing for the fences and climb toward the sky to look out over Boston Harbor and the city skyline, they are putting trust in their peers in pursuit of a shared goal.” Josh Waxman, Deputy Director of Camp Harbor View, explains. “I think that is incredibly powerful. The communication and collaboration required to make the whole system work is also worth emphasizing; it is a team exercise. Friendships are formed and relationships are strengthened on the challenge course for sure.” 

Next time you’re on the island to hear the distinctive call of 3. 2. 1. and witness a brave camper catapult through the air, think of the courage, conviction and strong community behind that crowning moment.  

ropes course grid