Mount Holyoke - Berkshire Hills Best Buddies




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Forming Our Own Mission Statement

The Mission Statement of Best Buddies International

To establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Reflections on the Mission Statement

Mount Holyoke and Berkshire Hills are particularly vibrant, creative sites. Their cultures each emphasize the arts and social justice, emphases on which our Best Buddies chapter can draw to deepen its work. Our chapter strives to integrate a model of community-based social justice into its mission.

A Space for Women, and a Space for Different Abilities

Mount Holyoke College and Berkshire Hills were each established for people who have historically been turned away from higher education. Our schools have in common:

  • Questioning the status quo.
  • Unique curricula tailored toward students' differences (Mary Lyon designed chemistry for women; Berkshire Hills educators similarly design curricula in music and independent living for individuals with non-traditional abilities).
  • Alumnae who make headlines for challenging societal expectations by realizing the careers of their dreams.

Thus, can disability be understood (in part) as a construct similar to sexist stereotypes?

The idea of social justice

We would like to connect our work with the following ideas:

  • People suffer discrimination and harassment based on their abilities that differ markedly from what is expected ("disability"). This is called ablism.
  • All oppression is connected. We hope that students and community members interested in issues of race, class, and gender will consider ablism when contemplating issues of social justice. People with disabilities are black, white, gay, straight, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Racism, sexism, and homophobia disable people based on their differences. Thus, fighting against ablism is everybody's fight.
  • Self-reflexivity: We are not just volunteering with a site "out there." We are at a prestigious liberal arts college. Fundamentally, a liberal arts college turns on the production of specialized and privileged kinds of knowledge. This is a privileging of certain "ways of thinking" over others. Thus, disability and ablism are present in our day-to-day lives, even - especially - when we don't see abilities very different than our own on a day-to-day basis.
  • Friendship and interpersonal relationships across lines of difference compose the building blocks of a social justice movement against ablism.

Conclusion

In conclusion, our chapter strives toward:

  • Understanding our common histories of oppression and relationship with social justice movements.
  • Self-reflexivity
  • Friendship rather than volunteering
  • Empathy rather than sympathy ("Solidarity, not charity")

Read more about how to practice these in this site's section on member resources.