“We’re saying the words right away: racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism.” For Marc Chartier, speaking these words is more than just a conversation. It’s the first step in changing people’s lives.
As Program Support Services Coordinator, Client Rights Officer, and Privacy Officer at Marrakech, Inc., Marc designs and presents trainings for Marrakech staff, for a number of our funding sources, and for students at Marrakech’s Academy for Human Services Training (ASHT). These trainings cover a variety of topics, including Multiculturalism and Objectivity in the provision of services. When Marc first joined the agency he noticed that people were struggling to write assessments and reports. “There was a lot of emotion going in to documentation,” he says. “It’s not possible to be truly objective without recognizing our own bias.” Marc put together a course to help his colleagues identify and describe objectively. Twenty years later, that class is now part of a mandatory training for all employees. Another required class of his addresses multiculturalism and identifies inequalities that many consumers face and how deeply “culture matters” in our work. “It’s been the Marrakech message,” said Marc. “In our field, we have people dependent on us. Providers need to go beyond thinking only in terms of welfare of the people we serve. Truly, it’s about supporting people in a fundamental ability and their right to become who they are.”
Fighting for Change
Marrakech’s mission is at heart of its commitment to social justice. “This agency values the whole person,” says Marc. “We recognize when we can do things better and we grab those opportunities.” Through his work with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) Office of Multicultural Healthcare Equality and the Connecticut State Multicultural Advisory Council, Marrakech has become a leading advocate in fighting to ensure that all people are treated with respect and dignity, and have equal access to services.
A recent policy change at DMHAS reflects this work. “The leading cause of death for gay youth is suicide,” explains Marc. “Suicide”. 40% of the homeless youth living on the streets in this country identify as LGBT. We’re now seeing this reflected in some of our own programs and services especially those that work with at-risk youth. Now, DMHAS is going to require agencies to ask consumers questions about gender and orientation at admission.” This change not only encourages organizations to gather more information for research data, but helps to begin a conversation with consumers that can change their lives. Marc says, “I don’t think people recognized the importance of this. I tell people ‘Let’s talk about it. Let’s do it. Because if you can’t help people know they’re safe with you, nothing else will be successful. The single most important thing you can do is provide a place of safety.”
The Work Matters
Marrakech’s Cultural Competency plan has been highlighted as a model for other organizations by CARF International. Moving forward in real multiculturalism helps Marrakech staff identify areas of need, reach out to people who are vulnerable, and build effective programs. “Our services become not just nicer, but more efficient,” Marc explains. “We can attract more business. It absolutely affects our bottom line. And what separates Marrakech from other agencies is that people here understand that.”
He adds, “Everything I do is intended to raise people’s consciousness. My soul is attached to this work. I came here in my forties and I’m now seventy. And I’m not done yet.”
Please consider supporting Marrakech’s work to ensure that all individuals receive services equally:
- A $10 donation to Marrakech pays for a new employee to attend the Cultural Matters training.
- A $22.50 donation to Marrakech pays for a consumer to obtain a picture ID at the DMV, a critical need in today’s world.
- A $40 donation to Marrakech pays a housing application fee for a consumer in need of a place to live.