April- National Minority Health Month
At the Healing Garden, we remain committed to removing barriers to access our cancer support services and pledge to actively increase our understanding and actions as they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Read more about the Healing Garden’s commitment to ensure we are accountable for our actions as we serve the broader community more effectively, through an interview with Meg Koch, Executive Director, and her Board Chair, David Martin. #diversity #inclusion #equity #nationalminioritymonth #BIPOC#BlackLiveMatter#healthcaredisparities
- What are you doing to actively increase the Healing Garden’s understanding and actions related to DEI?
MK: The HG began our work in the summer of 2020. We are so very grateful to have received a Community Engagement Grant through the Community Foundation of North Central MA to support this effort. While we have always had an eye towards being as inclusive as we could, we had not been focused on what the barriers might be for those who did not find their way to us for care. We instituted a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, and together with the entire Board crafted a vision and action statement. With grant funding we hired a consultant to help us do a deep dive into the communities we already serve; 175 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of MA. We looked to census data to understand the demographics such as population in the community and the percentages of that which represents those facing cancer, percentages of the various groups representing people all Race and ethnic groups, socioeconomic status in the area, percent of the population that is non-English speaking, percentage of households with no computer or technology and what cancer resources are available in these areas. We began meeting with various stakeholders in the communities, and in the sub-communities to learn more.
The Healing Garden takes action with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
What became clear is that while the HG does serve a diverse population, we almost never see black clients, and likely do not see/serve the most marginalized community members due to financial and transportation barriers. As a group, we felt we need some training to better understand what we could do about this. In March of 2021, the HG put out a request for proposals to address our desire to build consensus between the DEI committee and the Board at Large, work on our evaluation and understanding of our organization’s readiness and capacity to systematically make changes to lead with a broader community and to serve a broader community.
- How are you being held accountable for your actions to serve a broader community?
MK: We have pledged to our constituent groups to report back our progress in our annual report that will come out in September 2021.
- Why did you decide to take action to ensure DEI at the Healing Garden?
It will take everyone in the country to working towards an anti-racisit society
MK: As our country and we watched the George Floyd murder we were horrified. As the Black Lives Movement began, we knew we had to take a position to act, and that to overcome racial violence it would take everyone in this country working towards an antiracist society.
- Can you describe any programming or services specifically tailored to diverse clients?
MK: To get a sense of what our clients, Board, Staff, and associated therapists experience when connected to the HG, we developed a survey looking for personal experience. We were not only looking at Race but any issues of diversity. We discovered that we needed to add closed captioning to our Zoom meeting for the hearing impaired, that we should offer programs and services in the evenings and on weekends, to serve those who depend on income from hourly jobs during day hours. We heard that we should try to employee and add people of diverse groups to our Advisory Council, staff, therapist team, and Board so that people of these groups would see themselves and feel that they belong. That includes changing our Website and communications to reflect that inclusivity and belonging. We heard from clients that men, who are in the minority here at the Garden, could feel uncomfortable and alone in a group of women, and so we formed a men’s only support group. We hope to have an LGBTQI Support group in the near future. We believe there will be more change to come after our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusions training.
- Any other points you would like to add that I did not include in my questions?
DM: Our DEI Committee members have put in over 354 hours collectively, reading books, listening to podcasts, participating in a myriad of online DEI training, and are thoroughly committed to this work. Through our Committee’s study and conversations, we have become aware that, in addition to reducing the barriers to arriving and becoming a HG client, we need to learn more about our systems and ourselves to ensure that our new clients feel welcome and feel that they belong. We want them to remain clients and take full advantage of our services. We have embarked on a journey that will likely challenge us for years to come. We know that we’ll make mistakes along the way, but we want to begin, to begin thoughtfully, prepared to learn about ourselves and members of our broader community as we progress.