Groups Undertake Diversity Training in the Berkshires
Understanding various cultures is important for any organization or agency serving the public. But in smaller, more rural areas, like the Berkshires, what is known as cultural competence can be a vital, but overlooked asset—which has some non-profits seeking advanced diversity training.
Even those who may be culturally sensitive may have misconceptions about diversity in rural, sometimes-insulated communities.
"It's so easy for any of us to be focused on how much similarity there is."
Ananda Timpane, executive director of the Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington, says it's common to hear comments about how the Berkshires is welcoming, with the caveat that, well, it's really a moot point. Remarks like…
"Yes, there are people from lots of different countries here, but still, almost everybody's white, right?' I think that particular dynamic is a particular problem in the Berkshires."
The use of the words "Cultural competence" has become more commonplace in non-profits and grant applications. And a handful of Berkshire-based groups serving the youth population are getting together for training to learn more about race, nationality, sexual orientation and differences in economic opportunity.
Gwendolyn Hampton Van-Sant, executive director of Multicultural BRIDGE, in the village of Housatonic, points to numbers showing that, while total population in the Berkshires has declined, the percentage of immigrants is on the rise. In smaller communities, she says, it's particularly important to be aware of the diversity that does exist.
"So we try to really educate people that our community is growing and it's diverse and there's strengths in these subgroups coming in. And we want to make connections and bridge that."
Van-Sant says the groups she's provided cultural competence training to are following up within their own organizations to increase their understanding of those they are serving. For New England Public Radio, I'm Jeremy Goodwin.