Can it be nirvana? Well, it’s certainly utopia!
For just a minute… close your eyes and picture utopia. Developmentally handicapped children and adults living, experiencing, learning, socializing, laughing, singing, working alongside a similar number of companions. Keep your eyes closed and let them graze over 300 acres of strem, valleys, maple woods, trails, fields, grassy laneways.
See cows, chickens, a thriving egg operation, maple syrup from the maple wood, weaving looms clicking as fabric emerges, thrumming wheels thrumming as pottery takes unique shape. And how about theatre, performance, the awestruck spell of brilliantly performed classical music in an enchanting hall that was once a paper dream?
Smell fresh baked bread accompanying other goodies from an entire floor of one house. Hear saws and sandpaper, smell woodshavings and varnish. Run your hand over silken wood that has ebecome tables, chairs, benches, bookcases, cabinets. Dip your finger in honey. Taste vegetables grown in the goodness of soil and sun.
Now open your eyes.
What kind of people walk into this way of life, living with (not coming in for shifts) individuals that the rest of the world considers challenged? What kind of people open up their dreams of possibilities to the universe and just expect that goodness will happen?
Well, dozens of people. Camphill Village celebrates nearly 20 years in its rural location, four kms south of Angus on County Rd 10. Drawing its roots from a Camphill facility and philosophy in Scotland, Camphill Village Ontario is unique in Central Canada. Many of the families who ‘work’ at Camphill have learned the philosophy or have become attracted to the lifestyle and made the commitment.
Two of these folks are Diane and Chuck Kyd. They met in Brampton in 1970. He was a radio broadcaster. She was a librarian. They were 60’s kids who got married at the start of a new decade. And, oddly enough, it was Diane’s desire for a little volunteer project that changed their lives. In their 34 years of marriage, the Kyds have spend scant months alone as a couple. Most of their life together has been spent in the company of companions–developmentally challenged children, teenagers and now older adults. Together, the Kyds and others like them, create a community, a series of families for their special residents. Blending their own children, the Kyds were part of an energy that brought Camphill to Essa Township in 1986. The facility bought one farm, and then two others next door ‘for sale’ signs from neighbouring farmers who feared reduced property values and cultural shifts with the introduction of Camphill to their area).
And now, 20 years later, 300 acres have indeed become a village… a cultural hall with world class performances (open to the public, and rentable for events, thankyouverymuch!), a store offering organic vegetables, free range beef, eggs, baked goods, crafts, firewood, honey. Camphill sustains itself agriculturally and educationally as its residents are incorporated into the Waldorf education system through the Huronia Waldorf School.
The population of Camphill Village (rural division) averages 80, with half co-workers and their families and half developmental companions. Co workers aren’t typical ‘shift’ experts… instead, they are families who incorporate the Camphill philosophy into their lives. They live at Camphill. All the time.
While Camphill has its origins in Scotland, there are 10 locations in North America, three of them in Canada. Each village is self sustaining, with much of the support funding coming from the provincial ministries of community and family services. Each satellite is independent, offering individual education, programming and lifestyle.
Says Chuck Kyd: ‘We have lots of support from corporations and foundations. To build our performance hall, they helped us with performances, with funds. And now we have support from Angus and Barrie residents as well. We are good customers of Angus businesses.’
Camphill has branched into an urban project as well, with some residents preferring an urban life in downtown Barrie. Living quietly on residential streets in houses that offer the same family atmosphere, Camphill residents are living in a group home or four associative houses, are learning fibre arts, jewellery making, pottery, weaving. All Camphill residents are supported through the medical services of Sophia Creek facility on Toronto St.
Camphill rural and Camphill urban represent so much of what is good in our world. These homes are just that… vibrant, lively, committed families living and developing skills for which they have energy and ability and enthusiasm. Volunteers are a consistent element for Camphill and young and old alike take their skills to the people in both locations. Everyone benefits.
Diane Kyd points out that while full time residents of Camphill number around 80, there are day relationships as well where people come for portions of a day or a week.
Executive Director for Camphill Ontario is Mike Coxon, the red tape guru who is able to charge forward with ideas matched only by his patience to work with and around rules. Treasa O¹Driscoll coordinates the performance aspect of Camphill, including the 200-seat performance centre and its associated kitchen. She organizes all professional entertainment and art workshops and is a wizard at attracting world class entertainment.
Camphill seems almost magical. Chuck and Diane Kyd certainly offer that quiet certainty of the rightness of this lifestyle for them. “We’ve connected with a reality and lived the life we want to live. We’re meeting real needs. We feel like we know what we’re doing.” says Diane. “It¹s a wonderful shift to this individualized approach, not just for the people who have to be cared for. We learn way more from them.”
The Camphill family team is reaching out to embrace new challenges now as their companions are aging… some are in their 70’s. Gone are their needs for child-like care and programming. “With the anticipated closing of Huronia Regional Centre and the aging of our own companions, we’re faced with a whole, new challenge,” says Chuck.
Camphill Communities Ontario
The Kyds are looking to develop apprenticeship skills for their emerging adult group, where people can journey through activities and choose the one that resonates with them… much like the Kyds have chosen the life that resonates with them.
This is a complex so diverse that it’s simple. It’s called “associative economics”… if you’re looking for an academic term.
I call it love.
Thanks, Diane. Thanks, Chuck.