By Darcy Amiel
This year’s annual retreat was centered around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, which has been an ongoing focus of both the Board and the agency as a whole. The day-long event, which was attended by the board, staff, and DEIJ Committee members, was held in the Chase Mill at Tracy Aviary on a rainy Sunday in October.
The featured speaker and facilitator at the event was Walter Fordham, a DEIJ coach and development practitioner who has spent more than 20 years teaching team effectiveness and leadership around the world. Walter has done this work in more than 30 countries and with thousands of participants over his career, and we were grateful to have been able to benefit from our time with him. Guiding our group through different eye-opening exercises and conversations, Walter’s program gave everyone involved in the extraordinary day an opportunity to participate, tell stories, and feel the safety necessary to open up to the group on subjects of race, gender, otherness, vulnerability, and how we all experience hard times differently.
It is experiences like these, ones that allow for open dialogue and frank, honest discussion, that helped everyone who attended reflect on their commitment, and served as a reminder of why they got involved with JFS in the first place. Our main goal as an organization is to always consider the needs of the communities and the people we serve, as well as the needs of the valued people who serve them. Our time with Walter and the day spent in open dialogue together was one more way to ensure that we continue to be as empathetic and responsive to those needs as we can be. With diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice as a permanent and vital pillar of JFS going forward, our team will continue to grow as the agency grows, building a better, stronger, more effective agency well into the future.