Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity for All
As with many things, the younger generations push society to evolve for the better. We are proud of what we stand for while also seeking ways to continue growing and learning.
By Katherine Dayton, Director
VISIONS has always sought to facilitate respect for the commonalities and differences between people. We do this by working together on shared goals (engagement), group “Circle” meetings (communication), and community-building (connection). At all levels of our organization—from administration to summer leaders, local partners and teen volunteers— we seek diversity of backgrounds, lifestyles, LGBTQIA+ identities, heritage and interests.
Among the diverse people of VISIONS, we strive for an ethos of inclusiveness, equity and justice. Our greatest hope is that the power of the program experience serves as a springboard for this ethos to be further cultivated by anyone who has been a part of VISIONS.
We are also a learning organization, striving to more fully grasp the ongoing implications of a global and American history that has been far from equitable, and where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have faced ongoing institutional discrimination and injustices. That deeper learning serves to ignite our passions even further for diversity, inclusion, and equity for all.
Some of the ways in which we have evolved as a result of this learning include expanding the professional duties of members of our host countries, becoming a smaller organization that has more resources for deeper relationships with local people, expanding our financial aid for greater socio-economic reach among high school students, and instituting trainings that help our teams work effectively in the DEI sphere. We continue to learn, act and reflect, and we are thrilled to be doing this work with incredible community members, teenagers and program leaders.
Care for the Planet
VISIONS mission is To live in harmony with ourselves, each other and the natural world. We believe that a connection to the natural world is fundamental if we are going to live in balance with it. Materialism, excess, and self-focus are not the VISIONS way. We live simply, we pack simply, we are cognizant of the resources we use, and we strive to bring as much as we can into greater harmony with the natural world.
The climate crisis is impacting our programs and partner communities in very real ways. The developing world, Southern Hemisphere and economically disadvantaged places bear some of the greatest brunt of climate change, while those with the privilege to participate in programs like these often carry with us the highest proportions of waste and footprints that are creating the issues in the first place.
Instead of avoiding the discomfort of this disharmony, we bear witness to it. We show up, we work, listen, learn, and weave a fabric that is equipped to speak truth to power. We also help to develop grounded and fulfilled young people who can sustain the challenging work of instituting change in the world.
We are also aware that the state of the environment is on the minds of many teens who participate in VISIONS. As young people who have long lives ahead but do not yet have voting power, the climate crisis can be an existential crisis. As an organization that works with young people, this further motivates our work. We are inspired by the teen volunteers who join VISIONS, and their optimism and determination to participate in local and global communities.
A few of the ways VISIONS aims to create greater harmony between ourselves and the natural world include service projects of water conservation, environmental education at youth camps, biodiversity initiatives and animal welfare, hiring many leaders with conservation backgrounds, eating sustainably-produced food when possible, purchasing as much ethically-sourced meat as possible (i.e.: buffalo from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana), avoiding materialism through excess, engaging in activities that connect us with nature, and making donations and volunteering time to conservation causes.
A Note About Politics
While divisiveness often makes headlines, a more subtle story is that many people are working hard to build bridges and find common ground. VISIONS does not push an agenda and we are regularly reminded that people from diverse political backgrounds are inspired by our mission and our work.
VISIONS programs and the people involved are a microcosm of the larger world. Importantly, those who participate take with them a powerful experience that can inform the rest of their lives and how they interact with others. That’s why it’s so important to us that we help lay the groundwork for respectful communication and problem solving.
VISIONS is unique in that we always include intentional time for open communication and community-building through our Circle meetings. The meetings happen a few times a week and represent how we strive to work with each other every day of the program. There is never going to be harmony at all times and almost every group will encounter a “storming” phase. Therein lies the power, however—to collectively work through those times and tap into the best parts of ourselves—to be respectful, and then to use this approach as practice for the rest of our lives.
If you have any questions about VISIONS philosophies or would like to talk further, please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time.