Skip to content

Inclusive Communities are Healthy Communities

By Jill Tettmann, President and CEO, YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka

Inclusivity is an integral part of our community’s health and wellness. When we all come together to celebrate the diversity of our community, we ensure all members feel valued, can live with dignity, engage positively with one another, and further contribute to the community we all call home. BC Healthy Communities tells us that there are three key areas that help foster inclusive communities[1]:

  • Social connectedness
    • When we can create a sense of belonging among community members and help them to continue to build relationships, we invest in the health of our entire community. Individuals with strong social connections and support networks are proven to be healthier and even have longer life expectancies.
  • Age-friendliness
    • Providing resources and programs to a variety of different age groups allows the youngest, oldest, and every age in between to thrive, feel connected, and continue to be valued and contributing members of the community throughout their lifetimes.
  • Welcoming communities
    • Celebrating diversity within our communities and encouraging new members from diverse backgrounds to participate in the social, cultural, and economic life of the region without discrimination ensures that our community members feel connected and have a sense of belonging that leads to greater individual and community wellness.

These factors remind us of the ways we can all help make sure that members of our community, regardless of their identity, feel a sense of belonging, which leads to a healthier community. Because healthy communities are happy communities.

At the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, we take into account the ways in which attention to inclusivity, encompassing culture, race, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial status, and ability, can help us best be champions of our people. In fact, inclusiveness is one of the five core YMCA values that guide our decision-making and actions every day.

Some of the ways we ensure that we are prioritizing inclusivity in our community are:

  • Language: Ensuring that our communications are accessible and use inclusive language. For example, acknowledging the religious history of our YMCA and the current status of this standing of YMCAs in Canada. The YMCA came to Canada in 1851 as the Young Men’s Christian Association and over time we have evolved to serve all Canadians, including all religions, ages, and genders. While we are no longer affiliated with the Christian Church, our roots are reflected in our values of kindness, integrity, inclusiveness, respect, and optimism. In Canada, the YMCA is a charity where everyone is welcome.
  • Programming: By offering programs that cater to different needs and are representative of the needs of our community. For example, the Settlement Worker in Schools program, which provides settlement supports to newcomer children, youth, and their families to integrate into their new school and community.
  • Planning: When planning and developing new programming and content for the YMCA, ensuring that we are taking into account diverse voices and experiences to shape our future. For example, we engaged nearly 1,000 community members to provide insights and inform our 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, ensuring that our vision of building a vibrant and connected community where everyone belongs, reflects every voice in our community.
  • Financial Models: By offering financial assistance to those in our community who may need it, ensuring that financial barriers do not stop people from being able to belong to the Y. For example, in 2023, we were able to assist over 1,780 participants via our charitable financial assistance program.

And we want to make sure the feeling of inclusivity extends beyond just the walls of our YMCA.

That’s why the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka is proud to collaborate with the County of Simcoe for their annual #ITSTARTS awareness campaign. This campaign aims to take proactive steps toward addressing racism and discrimination in Simcoe County and promote a unified community that encourages collective action against racism and discrimination. During our partnership this year, we focused on Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers. In this article, the focus was on how YMCA Immigrant Services addresses racism and discrimination through its proactive initiatives and programs, by not only helping immigrants find their footing in a new environment, but also by cultivating a culture of understanding and empathy within the broader community. To learn more about how you can support these efforts toward a brighter, more inclusive future for everyone, read the article here!

To learn more about inclusivity at the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, please visit


Back To Top