ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Growing up, Clara Benson’s grandmother advocated for the idea of service and helping others.
“She would always tell us that if you can do something, then it’s your obligation to do it,” Benson said.
Benson, a Winthrop University psychology major from Charleston, had already been thinking about how to put her grandmother’s words into action and laying the groundwork in Charleston and the South for her idea. At the same time, friends and acquaintances were approaching Benson and asking for her advice: Do you know of a Black therapist? A Black OB/GYN? A Black psychiatrist who speaks Spanish?
“It became abundantly clear that this is a need that’s not being filled, and I [CREW] can fill that need,” Benson explained.
Thus, the nonprofit Community Resources for Enduring Wellness (CREW) was born in June 2020 out of a need for accessible, equitable and welcoming public health resources within underserved communities in South Carolina. The nonprofit also hopes to, in the future, provide more resources that will include actionable steps for communities to achieve whole-body wellness.
“I did not expect for it to be what it is already,” Benson said. “My expectation would be that I filed my corporation paperwork and then slowly, throughout my senior year, start to build the foundation of the organization.”
But within two months, Benson landed a $40,000 grant from the Southern Power Fund through the Highlander Research and Education Center.
“They essentially said, ‘Your work is necessary. We want to fund it, especially in the middle of the pandemic, to get these resources out to people,’” Benson said.
The Black Wellness Project
CREW’s first major and ongoing initiative is the Black Wellness Project, an online resource for people to find Black health and wellness professionals across the state. Benson explained that while white medical professionals are important, they’re also abundant and easy to find.
That’s not the case for Black medical professionals.
“It’s really important for Black folks, people of color and underserved people to be able to go somewhere where they feel safe and heard,” she said. “It’s about, for example, not having to go to a therapist where you will have to explain why a micro-aggression is upsetting to you. It’s the familiarity. It’s the cultural intelligence you’re looking for. You want the doctor to believe you and listen. A lot of times when we go to doctors who don’t look like us, that’s not necessarily our experience.”
Right now, Benson is working on building the Black Wellness Project’s inventory through research, discussions with the CREW advisory board, networking with health alliances, conversations with the community and more – all while being a full-time Winthrop student and participating in activities on campus.
However, it’s a long road ahead, and CREW needs support to continue its important work. Benson is fundraising for the next step of the project and for CREW’s future. People can consider donating to this initiative here.
Another way the community can help: virtually volunteering. If interested, people can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Virtual Volunteer 2021’ in the subject line.
After graduation, Benson hopes to hire an assistant director and a paid intern for CREW, expand the Black Wellness Project and add curriculum-building as a resource from the nonprofit.
“I love this work, and I’m super grateful that I’ve already found it and my lane of movement,” she said. “I’m just out here trying to do my part.”
For more information, please contact Nicole Chisari, communications coordinator, at 803/323-2236 or e-mail email@example.com.