Sharing a child's joys and triumphs through inclusion is one of our absolute favorite things.
But inclusion doesn’t start (or end) with any one person.
That’s why we’re taking this week’s inclusion success story behind the scenes. Because behind every great inclusion success story are the individuals and organizations doing the work to be agents of change.
Their stories are essential pieces of the inclusion puzzle, and deserve to be shared and celebrated.
Small changes, big impact
From the Director:
Our YMCA first began incorporating NIP's Let's ALL Play inclusion principles into our summer camps in 2017. The fundamental ideas are fairly straightforward: everyone can participate, but the ways they participate might look a little different.
But sometimes translating those ideas into real life can be challenging--especially when programs (like ours) have a large, frequently changing staff with a wide variety of responsibilities.
But as the saying goes, even the longest journey begins with single step. For meaningful change to occur, sometimes all it takes is just one person making that step in the right direction.
A person like Pat.
Pat has worked at our camp for a few summers. Recently, he was supervising our Adventure room on a typical busy Monday morning. There were lots of children running, climbing, and playing boisterously.
The morning was in full swing when a child and her cousin, a first time guest, came in to play. The visiting child had some noticeable differences, and several of the newer staffers were anxious as to whether the child would be able participate in the busy and chaotic space.
Pat, however, simply spent some time observing the girls. They were playing together and trying to master the climbing mountain. After they made several attempts with no success, Pat stepped in and offered some support to help them get to the top. He laughed with them as they slid back down. After assisting them a few more times , he left them to help each other up the mountain. They repeated this over and over again, laughing as though they were having the time of their lives.
Images have been changed to protect individuals' privacy
Later that day at our staff end-of-day meeting, Pat was asked to elaborate on his experience with these children. Pat responded, “It was just like how you trained us. Everyone can get involved and play, they just do it in different ways. I didn’t ever question whether she could do it or whether she should be there, even if some others perhaps did. I just knew that it was my job to help those girls figure out how to make it happen.”
Inspired by Pat's embodiment of the inclusion mindset, that next summer we hired a full-time Inclusion Specialist, who worked with all our staff to support campers with various needs, and model the guiding ideologies behind Let's ALL Play.
We have been thrilled with the positive feedback and growth we've seen from incorporating meaningful inclusion into our programming. And while we know there is always work to do, each and every step towards inclusion is a step in the right direction.