It was a cold snowy morning in early January. I had let both Christmas and New Years slip by without much notice. I was ripe with anticipation, excitement, and fear awaiting my transplant from normal Ohio into a new life in Santa Cruz, California. I was departing to begin my year with Camphill Communities California, an AmeriCorps volunteer program. I would be living and working with developmentally disabled adults. Prior to this I had never had any personal experience with developmentally disabled people.
I was a recent graduate of college, floating along looking and waiting for my next move in life. A teaching program in Prague had looked promising but I was in need of something more—more helpful, more life changing, more life expanding. I wanted to use my degree to help myself grow and change. I also wanted to help, change, and influence the lives of others.
This is where AmeriCorps and Camphill Communities came into play. Camphill is a community steeped in culture, spiritual and environmental awareness; a place with the need to continue to better those who work in and with the community and the world around them. A small but powerful group whose energy reaches all levels of humanity to the far reaches of the globe.
My first encounter was with Beaver Run, a boarding school run by Camphill outside of Philadelphia. A community made up of several houses each containing House Families and Friends. The house parents were there to assist the friends, who ranged from borderline to severely disabled, in school and daily activities, ranging from washing dishes and schoolwork to weaving and woodworking. It was a different world from a clinical facility. It was full of life and love, the positive energy of all that lived there created this thick hum in the air. It was then that I realized that this was something that I wanted to pursue.
Within my first week at Camphill my first experience was realizing the affect that my presence made on the community of about thirty, how my actions had a ripple affect throughout the community. The other refreshing concept was the loss of "me" that so much of society is built on, it was no longer specifically about me but about the friends and the other coworkers. How what I did and when I did it could benefit the community as a whole. What the community could get from me and in turn what I could gain from them. I think that the most amazing aspect of the experience is the loss of preconceived ideas and facades that so many of us have and have become accustomed to.
No matter your physical or skill level there is a place at Camphill. It truly is quite amazing. At a time when society seems to blur between the importance of individuality and conformity, Camphill is a sanctuary allowing everyone to live as is, only to conform to the pursuit and practice of that which is good for the mind, body, spirit, and the world around us. I have been submerged in a culture of genuine acceptance, love, caring, thought, idea, and action. It is mentally and physically stunning and awesome.
Article contributed by Michael, an AmeriCorps Coworker from Camphill Communities California
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