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.

Creating lasting impact by centering youth voice & choice

One of our core values at Camp Harbor View is to center the voices and experiences of our community in everything we do. We see it again and again, when the teens and families in our programs play a meaningful role in shaping our community initiatives, we maximize impact. 

The two of us recently had an opportunity to share with the American Camp Association community about our philosophy on centering participant voice and choice, as well as some of the tangible steps we’ve taken as an organization to make this aspiration a reality. Here are the three keys: 

  1. Always be learning
    We believe that to be our best, we must acknowledge the wins while constantly focusing on how we are learning from the participants in our programs. This is easier said than done, and we are working on it. 

    We’re relentless about inviting feedback and input after our programs, and we’re dedicated to building real relationships so teens and families know we’re really ready to listen, not just check off a box. And we make sure that we don’t rely on just one format or avenue of listening and learning. 

    • Surveys can be a quick method to hear from lots of folks, but they’re impersonal and might get lost in inboxes. One essential element is to make them easy to fill out and keep them short. One tactic we use is to ask one question after a session: “Did you like this activity?”
    • There’s nothing like an in-person conversation, but this requires travel, child care, and more. 

    The key is to offer more than one avenue to engage so everyone has a chance to contribute.
  2. Collect data and review it regularly
    Our process of becoming a learning organization is ongoing. One of the best ways we’ve instituted this culture change is by collecting data, analyzing it, and adjusting our programs—over and over again. 

    One of our areas of focus has been to create simple systems to review data regularly and reflect on what we’re learning as a team. A pile of data is useless unless you’re looking at it, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A monthly team meeting to review survey results, attendance, and other data is a helpful milestone.
     
  3. Commit to co-design
    At Camp Harbor View, we’ve established a Youth Council and Parent Advisory Board. These are new leadership groups in our organization. We are not just asking them for feedback, we are working with them to co-design our programs. We know that if we want to elevate our game and maximize our impact, it will be led with young people and parents walking the journey with us.

Whether you’re also running programs for youth and families or if you’re at a different kind of organization or company, we’d love to hear how you center voice and choice in your culture. Join the conversation over on Linkedin.

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.

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.