It was a hot August night when I arrived at Glenora Farm – a 100 acre therapeutic Camphill farm on Vancouver Island. I was excited to have the opportunity to not only visit but this time I would be living within the community as a house parent. I cycled that day from Sidney, Vancouver Island enjoying the beautiful scenery and even taking time for a swim in the bay. As I cycled I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in this therapeutic farm community. What would it be like living in community with adults with developmental challenges and others all doing their best to live, work and learn together, I wondered. How would this experience help shape how we would build Sammy’s Place one day on the North Coast of Oregon?
My welcome was warm as I was introduced to the three companions (adults with special needs), the three short-term co-workers (young adult volunteers from Germany who were just beginning their year at the farm), and the housemother. I was filling in for the other house parent while he was traveling. Helios House became my home for the next couple of weeks, and the community of Glenora Farm became more like a family to me over that time.
Our days began with a reading from the Steiner Calendar of Days. This set the tone for the day and gave us all an opportunity to contemplate the meaning of our day together. We shared breakfast, lunch and dinner, and meals were a time of giving thanks and sharing about our days and planning for the next ones. Co-workers and house parents prepared the meals with some assistance from various companions. I remember the first meal I prepared. I was fortunate to have a companion assist me who was very skilled at cutting garlic and onions. During our prep time, I discovered that she loved and responded immediately to music. It became a shared language, and we took several dance breaks as we prepared the lunch.
Days flew by quickly. In between mealtimes, we worked side by side with the companions in the daily workshops. Sometimes many of us found ourselves weeding or harvesting from the farm. Other times some of us were in the weaving or the felting workshop, or collecting herbs for the herb workshop. There was time for walks on the 100- acre farm and lazy August afternoons at the lake swimming. Life in this community was enriched by music and shared singing.
What struck me about my time in this community was how it felt like a large extended family. I marveled at how everyone took care of each other. There were times when those with lesser challenges reached out and helped those with more profound challenges. A companion would take the arm of one who could not see so well and walk arm and arm with her. There was acceptance and a celebration of each person’s unique gifts. At times, the lines of distinction even blurred, so that the label of special needs became one with which we could all identify.
Before I knew it, the day had come to bid farewell. I was profoundly touched and moved by this community started decades ago by two co-corkers and a companion. Today there are around 50 people who live on the farm, 17 of which are companions. This is their home; this is their family. I will remember this experience fondly and draw inspiration from it as we move forward to create Sammy’s Place in Oregon – a place where everyone is supported to learn, grow and thrive.