Creating Equitable Communities
Last updated: September 23, 2019, at 12:19 p.m. PT
Originally published: November 27, 2018, at 8:11 a.m. PT
This year, every branch at the YMCA of Greater Seattle lived a commitment to building inclusive, equitable communities. As an organization that serves some of the nation’s most diverse neighborhoods, the Y needs to be a place where all people feel welcome.
This year, at branches throughout greater Seattle, the Y helped people from different backgrounds build healthy spirit, mind, and body in new and exciting ways. As King County’s immigrant communities grow, it’s essential that the Y continues to develop programs that meet diverse needs and expectations.
The Northshore and Matt Griffin branches piloted successful New American Welcome Centers, which not only brought new immigrants into the Y and provided a safe, welcoming space, but also gave them an opportunity to tell Y branches how to better meet their needs. Direct input from the Muslim community at Matt Griffin’s Welcome Center turned into a series of popular after-hours women-only swim nights and exercise classes.
All 13 Y branches held two events to highlight our communities’ diversity: Welcoming Week and Heritage Month. From fashion shows, to dance classes, to delicious home-cooked meals, each event offered a variety of programs and activities to celebrate different cultures: a taste of home for those who miss it – and an introduction to a new culture and new neighbors for other members.
In addition, Bellevue and Matt Griffin held giant Birthday Bashes on January 1 – the birthday the U.S. State Department assigns to refugees who have no birth records.
Last year the Y also did more to serve communities with varying abilities. Free, fun programs for middle-schoolers with special needs filled up quickly each time they were held, and the Dale Turner branch started a popular adaptive swim program providing lessons to children and adults with all ability levels.
As communities change, community service must change – and it all starts with listening. By making space for different ideas and building buy-in from the ground up, the Y is h is helping to build truly equitable communities that work for all.
Did you know? Last year the Y:
- Hosted Welcoming Weeks to over 1,000 participants, 500 volunteers, and 65 community groups participated in across Y branches to celebrate new Americans.
- Hosted two Birthday Bashes with 60 volunteers and 120 attendees welcoming immigrant and refugee neighbors on January 1 – the date that new immigrants and refugees without birth certificates are given as their official birth date.
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