Inclusion is the Heart of the WeHaKee
Because of the intentionality of the Sisters who founded the camp, the community of WeHaKee Camp for Girls has always stood out as diverse when compared to other camps with similar offerings. But diversity is never enough. Diversity is about numbers. It is about how many different groups are present as well as how many within each defined group are members of a larger group, say a camp community. Having a variety of people from different cultures, ethnic groups, sexual identities, geographies, ideologies, faiths and religions, socio-economic groups, and so on is a noble start to bringing people together. But it is in helping these people develop relationships across the variety of groups where inclusion begins and barriers begin to crumble.
“Diversity is about quantity. Inclusion is about quality.”
The quote above comes from an excerpt in the book, Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing (Vernã Myers, American Bar Association Center for Racial and Ethnic Diversity and General Practice, 2011). Ms. Myers is a nationally recognized expert on diversity and inclusion within law firms, law departments, and law schools. So what do her writings for the legal community have to do with the WeHaKee experience? Well, the distinction she shares is really a universal truth. And it truly highlights what WeHaKee does so well. That is, bringing together a diverse group of individuals to create an inclusive community! It’s about relationships and helping each other build positive, respectful life long relationships. That is what WeHaKee has excelled at for nearly five generations!
Recent events have refocused the light on the need for extreme efforts to bring people from different groups together. Divisions are more pronounced than many of us have chosen to acknowledge and it is important we learn to work together for the benefit of a better world. But we first must be willing to push aside our fears and suspicions and make an effort to learn about those different than us. The WeHaKee community embraces this challenge each and every summer. Girls and young women arrive from throughout the nation and around the world to spend two, four, and sometimes up to six weeks together. They live in cabins together, eat meals together, explore new and favorite activities together, and grow together.
The WeHaKee community is designed to help girls to not only find commonalities that bring them together but to explore their differences and see them as new and exciting. However, exploring differences can create conflict and the camp community is not immune to this challenge. That is why camp staff are chosen for their ability to first be strong, positive role models to provide our campers with examples of how to manage conflict and difference. Our staff receives training to help girls navigate conflict respectfully and effectively so they can emerge with a deeper understanding and respect the unique differences we all bring to the table.
WeHaKee is not a melting pot, where all of the campers evolve into undistinguishable composites of all of the others. Rather they come together to create a ‘tossed salad’ community with a multitude of colors, flavors, and textures that intensify the beauty of differences. Each session may begin with diversity, but because the culture of WeHaKee embraces acceptance over tolerance, the inclusive community emerges almost immediately!
Worlds Apart Coming Together is painted on the circle in the center of camp. This simple graphic embraces the heart of the WeHaKee experience – At the Heart of WeHaKee is Relationship! Now more than ever, it is truly what our world needs!
Thanks for reading everyone and have a great week!