As many of you know, Ulster County recently passed a new law eliminating the use of religious exemptions from vaccinations for participants and staff of summer camps.
A few days later, NY State disallowed the use of religious exemptions for accredited schools.
These decisions have affected many families in our community who have chosen a less traditional path in vaccinating/not vaccinating their children.
For Wild Earth, more than 20 campers have un-enrolled from camp (and all offered full refunds for their tuition), and several staff members have canceled their commitment to instruct.
Far greater than the loss of revenue and enrollment for Wild Earth is the loss of dedicated families that have relied on Wild Earth summer camp to engage their children for many years. We are extremely sorry for the disruption this decision causes you and we will be sorry to miss so many of our friends at camp this year.
It should be noted that while Wild Earth is regulated during summer camp, we are not considered a camp (or school, for that matter) during our regular school year programming. So, families excluded from camp may be welcomed back during the school year. More details on that in the coming weeks.
As an organization, Wild Earth does not take a position for or against vaccinations or even whether the greater public safety is protected by this decision to eliminate religious exemptions. To operate our program, Wild Earth is governed by the laws of NY State and Ulster County’s department of health, which we must and do follow.
Obviously, as individual citizens, it is our right and duty to make our voice heard to our government officials regarding our views. That said, I know that members of Wild Earth’s board, leadership team, and greater community are not of one mind around this issue: we have a great diversity of viewpoints. And, therefore, I kindly request one and all to respect that, as an organization, we will not be taking a stand in support or against this new law. We will be following it.
As a center and convener of community, however, Wild Earth respects the diversity of opinions and practices of each family. One thing we are sure of is that every parent and guardian is doing their very best to serve the unique and individual needs of their children.
Wild Earth encourages everyone who sees themselves as part of our Wild Earth community to resist the urge to divide ourselves from each other, even as we may disagree. As many of us are being separated right now from the Wild Earth community they have been a part of, empathy and kind consideration toward each other, whether we agree with one’s vaccination decision or not, is the only way forward.
As Wild Earth leaders, we are committed to making transformative nature immersion experiences a priority for EVERY child.
While we may not be able to accomplish this in our traditional form (a Wild Earth summer camp or year-round program), we and you might imagine creative methods toward meeting the same goal.
To every extent possible, we are willing to help support and advise families in providing experiences that meet their children’s needs. This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate that even though we may not all be able to attend camp, we can stay connected, in community, together.
In 2004, David co-founded and, today, is the Executive Director of Wild Earth, where he seeks to help regenerate healthy community culture and create opportunities for people to connect with themselves, each other and the Earth. Prior to founding Wild Earth, David worked as a wealth advisor on Wall Street for twelve years before realizing a life dream – fully sharing in the care and parenting of his three children, and creating a small family farm. Today, the Brownsteins raise dairy cows, goats, chickens, bees and vegetables in season. David also maintains an active counseling practice called Root Connections, where he focuses on helping individuals, couples, groups and business leaders identify and manifest their unique vision. More about David's work.