Hi, my name is Anna and I currently provide support and supervision to the several YMCA Brighton project management teams. I’ve worked for the YMCA since 2006, with a few long breaks to travel to India. Before my current post I’ve been a Project Worker, Senior Project Worker, Deputy Manager and Manager at three different projects.
1) Why do you feel Inclusion is important?
I’ve always been interested in the topic of diversity and inclusion and, more specifically, in the impact diverse environments have on groups and individuals. To me, inclusive environments are those that encourage individuals to express themselves without any form of judgement. They’re environments that thrive on and celebrate people’s differences rather than suppress them.
One of the most exciting aspects of working for YMCA Brighton is being part of teams that show consideration and respect for their own diversity. The benefits of such an atmosphere are countless. It doesn’t only affect the workers but extend to our client group and translate into relationships based on respect.
2) The theme of the day is Empower and Recognise. What does this theme mean to you?
The first challenge one comes across when starting to work with the homeless community is the realisation of the barriers they face in order to access services. So much of the work staff do on a daily basis is about helping reduce these barriers; and I truly believe that we all have the tools to put an end to them. Most of the time, it’s as simple as using our listening skills, seeing and treating homeless people the way we would treat anyone else and helping them reach their own goals, and not those we think would suit them. Once we realise the barriers homeless people face we can start challenging them and working towards real societal inclusion.
Inclusion is what underpins my current work with managers, not only ensuring that individual needs are taken into consideration but also that they feel empowered and also empower their staff and clients to tackle issues such as discrimination, racism, etc.
At a more personal level, I express my need for a more inclusive world by running Indian Futures, a charity I set up 4 years ago with the aim to increase access to quality education and equal opportunities for communities in rural South India. My connection with that part of the world comes from my very first trip to India back in 2002, when I had the opportunity to volunteer with one of the communities, I’m proud to support today through the work of my charity. Since then, and as I mention above, I’ve taken several trips to India, to help set up the educational project with one of our partner charities, monitor the projects we fund, and spend time with the communities we work with, travel and immerse in Indian culture.
3) What do you enjoy most about your work at the YMCA?
Ever since the beginning of my employment with the YMCA, I’ve enjoyed witnessing and being part of change. While in my first years I was mainly focused on the clients’ path towards change and independence, most recently, and particularly since I became a manager, I’ve really enjoyed supporting the staff on their own individual journeys. I like being there and seeing the changes and evolution that staff teams go through when someone new joins in. I find it very exciting to see what each individual brings to the team and how teams change with every new set of skills, experiences and values.
I’ve been particularly impressed with the commitment shown by all the teams during the pandemic. While I can see the impact the last year and a half have had on everyone, I must say the time and support offered to clients during this time has been outstanding and a true example of commitment and dedication.
4) What do you enjoy most about your work with Indian Futures?
Setting up Indian Futures has been a journey in itself. I’ve been humbled by the amount of support I’ve been given along the way, often from people I didn’t even know but who wanted to be part of this adventure.
The work with the charity has given me a great opportunity to keep my ties with a part of the world I know so well and feel so connected with. Spending long periods of time as part of a minority in such a different environment has provided me with a lot of insight into the issues we’re discussing today.
I cannot say that the path has always been easy. Inclusion is something that all communities in every part of the world need to work on constantly as new challenges come up, and I believe the key to more understanding and inclusive societies is education. So, if there is one thing that Indian Futures has shown me is how values-based education can make communities more inclusive and open to diversity.
5) Is there anything you would like to share as part of our virtual library that inspires you or encapsulates what inclusivity and empowerment means to you?
While in my Indian lockdown, back in March 2020, I met an online community of socially conscious change makers, called PiMOV (Positive Impact Movement, https://pimov.org/), who helped me refocus the work of my charity at quite a challenging time.
I would recommend any good books on the principles of Buddhism, such as How to be compassionate by the Dalai Lama, or The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.
More niche, but also amazing, are the publications by Marshall B Rosenberg on nonviolent communication. He also has several YouTube videos!
Finally, I can’t help but highlight the benefits of PIE practices (Psychologically Informed Environments) that are becoming more and more embedded in all YMCA projects. There’s a lot of online literature on PIE.
And on a more personal note, I’m leaving you with one of Indian Futures sets of values:
Diversity and Inclusion: We value and thrive in the cultural, ethnical and religious diversity of our communities. We encourage and celebrate this diversity as it provides a constant source of enrichment and learning.