Friday, February 27, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill...Part Two

Onto part two of our series on questions we receive about Camphill

"That's awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?"

In short, yes. We understand that it is in Pennsylvania and that yes, Pennsylvania is rather far away from Texas/Oklahoma. However, we wanted to get away from this area for a while. We're not saying it to be mean. We're not going away from anyONE, just craving a change of scenery. We actually decided that Camphill Soltane sounded amazing and wonderful and we wanted more information about it even before we knew that it was in Pennsylvania.

"Won't you be cold?"

Well, probably. Especially in the winter. However, I do have some experience with the winter up there (I lived pretty close to the Penn border in New York from ages 3 to 13). We'll have good warm winter coats, boots, gloves, earmuffs/hats, and scarves. It's all about layers. Promise we'll use our brains on this one ;)

"Are you crazy?"

I believe that this question was less a question about the sanity of our decision and more about the idea of willingly going to a climate that has snow. The answer, by the way, is no.

"How much does it pay?"

This is a VERY popular question from family. We aren't doing this for the money. With that said, we won't be left penniless afterward either. We have free housing and food the entire time we're there, plus after 3 months we'll have fully paid-for health insurance. We get a monthly stipend of $170 each. We won't have any bills to pay so we can save pretty much all of that each month.

We are actually going to be enrolled at Camphill as Americorps workers (Americorps is the same concept as Peacecorps, only you stay and work in the U.S. instead of going to another country). At the end of our time at Camphill we will have qualified for a full Americorps grant of $4,725.00 each for our year of full-time service. That grant can be used either to pay off student loans or toward tuition at an approved institution (there are lots of colleges and universities that accept Americorps grants). We have 7 years from the end of our service to use those funds.

Aaron doesn't have much in the way of federal student loans, but he can pay off what he does have and then use the rest toward his master's degree if he wants. I on the other hand have almost all federal student loans so I'll use mine toward those. Also, since we will be working in an Americorps program, our student loans will go into deferment just as if we were still in school which means we won't have to make payments on them and any time left in our grace period will still be there when we finish at Camphill. Most loans have a 6 month grace period after graduation and so since we're starting at the end of August we'll still have 3 months left once we leave Camphill before we'll need to make any payments.

I am very meticulous about money (I actually keep a hand-written ledger and budget). I'm also a good bargain hunter (not to brag or anything), and Aaron is a tightwad. Between the two of us we'll have plenty of money saved up before we ever leave for Pennsylvania.

We're so very excited about Camphill. We received our paperwork in the mail last week and I filled mine out the next day, but Aaron has been seriously swamped with school and work stuff, but already has a reminder set on his phone to fill his out on Sunday so we can mail them on Monday.

The next set of questions that I (or maybe Aaron) will answer are: "What about grad school?!", "Why aren't you getting a 'real job'?", "Will you be able to come back for _______?", and finally "What are you going to do after Camphill?"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill...Part One

Here are the two most common questions we're asked about Camphill Soltane.

What is Camphill Soltane?

From their letterhead: "A life-sharing educational community for and with individuals with developmental disabilities"

Basically, it is a community for adults with developmental disabilities unlike any that we had ever heard of. There are two programs housed on the campus, the first is the Learning for Life program which is modeled after a liberal arts college experience. Students live on campus in large home settings and take classes (academic, fine arts, pre-vocational, life skills, and vocational) for 5 years. The other program is available to graduates of the Learning for Life program and it is the Community Resident program. This program is available for those that wish to continue on at/return to Camphill. It provides vocational training and a job either on or off campus. Residents also receive continuing education in life skills and are involved in planning events for the entire Camphill community (and they live in large home settings same as the students). Areas that they can work on campus include a bakery, weavery, a small store, and landscaping and gardening (they have an orchard, a garden, and lots of berry bushes).

It's not at all what you would imagine a residential community for individuals with developmental disabilities would be like. It's not a "institution" or "facility." It's truly a home and community for these people where they learn valuable life skills in an environment that meets them where they are. Everyone contributes to the community as they are able. There is nothing institutional about it. Each home really is a house and not a building. Each person is a respected individual and is encouraged to grow in their abilities. I cannot believe that I had never heard of a Camphill community before. It's absolutely amazing and I can't wait to become a part of it.

What Will You Do There?

Aaron and I will be working together and also seperately. We will live in one of the houses with about 3 other coworkers and 10 students or residents. Everyone in the house is responsible for helping to keep it clean and prepare meals (cooking, setting the table, cleaning up, doing dishes, etc.). Our job will not be to do everything, but to help others do. It might be instructing, demonstrating, assisting where needed, but the end goal is to provide the students and residents at Camphill with learning experiences that will enable them to become as independent as possible. We are there to instruct and help only as needed (as well as chipping in our fair share).

Aaron has applied for a position doing land and estate care. Camphill has 50 acres of land on which are a large garden, an apple orchard, lots of berry bushes, pear trees, and of course lots and lots of grass. He'll not only tend to the land, but he will be working along side residents whose job is land and estate care. Every now and then he'll also have some students that rotate through the different jobs on campus during the pre-vocational portion of their studies. He'll have lots to do all year round. He'll chop firewood and shovel walks during the winter and till, plant, weed, mow, compost, fertilize, and harvest the rest of the year. I know he'll enjoy it and hopefully he'll learn a lot that he can teach me so we can have our own garden someday.

I couldn't choose one program over another so I will be assigned to either the Learning for Life or Community Resident program. I will help out either during activities and classes for the academic program or I will assist in a work area on campus for the community resident program. I'll basically be there to help as needed. It may be that I learn to use the loom and teach/help others to use it as well or I may assist during a class if anyone needs help. I will also take turns cooking lunch during the morning for my house. Everyone that stays on campus eats all three meals family-style in their house. If a resident has a job off campus, they eat lunch at work on their break.

Coworkers are on a lunch rotation and so during the morning while everyone is either at work or in class, a couple will stay behind and prepare lunch. Breakfast and dinner prep is most likely also on a rotation, but will probably depend on which house you live in. In the evenings, there is free time until 9 for the students and residents. Sometimes there are planned community events and sometimes everyone just hangs out at home. We will kind of help to organize some fun stuff during this time for those that want it. T.V. isn't a pasttime at Camphill. Instead they play games, tell stories, read, or just talk and hang out with the people in their houses. Starting at 9 it is free time for the coworkers.

That is (in a nutshell) what we'll do each day.

Tune in next time when I answer questions like "That's awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?", "Won't you be cold?", "Are you crazy?", and the ever popular "How much does it pay?"

Baby Riley!

Today my adopted parents from church were blessed by the safe and happy arrival of baby number three. Baby Riley. It's such a pretty name for a very pretty baby. Hopefully we'll be able to go see her and mom this evening. I might get a picture of her up here if her parents say it's okay.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill Soltane...coming soon

Over the next few days/weeks (however often I can find some spare time to write) I am going to post the most common questions (with answers) that we get about Camphill Soltane, our positions there next year, plans in between then and now, and plans for afterward. Hopefully it will help us all in that you will get the information you crave and we won't have to relay all of this information over and over again.

Right now I need to leave for work so the first post will have to wait until later. Here's a picture of a couple of the buildings at Camphill (courtesy of their website)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hello February!

Wow, I cannot believe that it's already February. January seemed to move both very fast and very slow (if that makes any sense).

First things first: WOOO STEELERS! -victory dance- Such an amazing game. I believe that I was the ONLY person rooting for the steelers at the watching party we went to at our church. If there were others they were certainly quiet about it. I had my terrible towel with me and waved it proudly.

Now onto other, even MORE exciting news:


We have been in the process of applying for over a month now, we each had our own individual interviews, and then a joint interview. We got an email back today stating that we had been accepted! I am so very excited and so is Aaron. I believe that we will really enjoy and benefit from the program as well as grow in our time there.

It's getting late and we really need to go to bed as our day starts early tomorrow. I'll write more later