Aifi's Story - a Gap Year Volunteer
Q: Your name
Q: Where do you come from
Q: Why did you decide to spend a year in Camphill School Aberdeen
A: I decided to join Camphill School to learn specifically about people with autism and special needs and how I can be useful for them. I’ve been doing volunteering projects for a while but helping people with special needs is very different. I also want to know what it feels like to live in community.
Q: What has it felt like being a volunteer
A: Being a volunteer in Camphill School is amazing. I never expected to learn so much from many events and people. The positive atmosphere here makes it easy to feel Camphill School is a great place for everyone, even a minority like myself.
Q: What have been the best moments for you during this time
A: The best moments I remember were during the summer time. We celebrated many things during the summer and I enjoy the energy and bright days. The barbecues are very enjoyable.
Q: What has been your experience of the shared living that happens in Camphill
A: It is very exciting since I never knew this way of living before. How people are helping each other and making sure everyone is okay every day is a very new concept to me which I found very valuable.
Q: Have you made new friends with whom you will keep in touch
A: Luckily in the house everyone is so friendly, co-workers get on really well and thankfully we have never had drama between us. So for sure I will definitely be keeping in touch with my friends.
Q: Would you recommend volunteering in Camphill
A: Yes! and I have already done so
Q: What will you be doing when you leave Camphill
A: When I leave here I will support Camphill as best as I can spreading awareness that people with special needs have so much to offer.
Garry's Story - a Local Volunteer
Q: Your name
A: My name is Garry Duthie
Q: Where do you come from
A: I am Scottish. I was born in Aberdeen over 66 years ago. I am an emeritus professor at the University of Aberdeen and for the past four years have been a volunteer at Camphill, firstly with their Nature Nurture programme and then helping in the farm and garden.
Q: Why did you decide to volunteer at Camphill School Aberdeen
A: I wanted to do something useful and meaningful in my retirement. I was aware and admired the amazing work that Camphill does with children and adults with additional support needs. One day I walked into the main office on the Murtle estate and asked if they needed any volunteers. More or less the next day I found myself driving a mini bus full of children and co-workers. Four years later I am still regularly volunteering.
Q: What has it felt like being a volunteer
A: Personally, I have found it amazingly rewarding, hugely satisfying and enjoyable. I feel I am doing something useful. I have developed new skills relating to farming and gardening and been on courses on understanding autism and epilepsy as well as first aid. I have been welcomed and become friends with many of the staff and co-workers. From a personal perspective, working with young people with additional support needs has allowed me to learn a tremendous amount about myself.
Q: What have been the best moments
A: There are many. For example, recently I walked our alpacas with one of the autistic pupils. The huge smile on his face as he led one of the alpacas on a lead is something I will not forget. On another occasion, after working with one of the pupils all morning, I was rewarded with a huge spontaneous cuddle. Another memory is helping load some cows into a trailer and being in the line of fire from a rear end. My wife insisted that I was hosed down before being allowed into our house.
Q: Have you had the opportunity to learn about Camphill and its history
A: I have a probably superficial understanding of the history and philosophy of Camphill. I would like to learn more. My children attended a Waldorf school in their early years, so I had some awareness of the Camphill movement. I have also had interesting conversations with long time residents at Murtle and Newton Dee.
Q: Would you recommend to people to come and volunteer
A: Everyone is different and the inclination to volunteer will depend on one’s circumstances and character. For myself, volunteering at Camphill has been a wonderful experience and has made my retirement hugely fulfilling.
Poppy aged 4 - a day in the life of Kindergarten
When I arrive at Kindergarten, I see my teacher smiling and waiting to greet me, I go and hang my bag on my peg and wash my hands.
Sometimes we go to the forest, I love forest day. I run around the trees and play with my friends; we find bugs and collect treasures and then we sit around the fire and sing songs. We even get to eat our snack around the fire!
On our way back to Kindergarten we walk past the alpacas and goats, they make me laugh because they look a bit funny. When they come over to say hello - sometimes we feed them handfuls of grass, their noses feel tickly on our hands.
In Kindergarten we help to look after our garden and we even plant pumpkins, carrots, green beans and potatoes. It was really fun watching them grow and we had to remember to water them to help them get bigger and bigger until POP! we could eat them. We made vegetable soup last time for snack and it was really yummy. I love snack time in Kindergarten, we all sit round a big table and sing a song to bless the meal then we eat all kinds of tasty things like crackers, hummus, fruit, cheese and on gardening day we have porridge. After snack we sing thank you for the meal and help to tidy up. Everybody joins in and we work really hard and then we go and play again. We are really lucky because our teachers understand the importance of free play and how our imaginations GROW and GROW in Kindergarten.
I love craft, in fact just yesterday I made a flag all by myself. My teacher gave me some white cloth and I cut it into a triangle and used a wooden block to bash a leaf onto the cloth to create beautiful colours. Then my teacher helped me to tie a stick onto it. I waved my flag around all afternoon! We all stick our cuttings and pictures into our Learning Journeys, it is a really special book that has photos and stories all about what we have been doing and learning. The Mums and Dads and Grannies and Grandads love these and seeing all the fun we all have.
A Mother's Story
Prior to attending Camphill School Aberdeen Niall spent the majority of time in his wheelchair when we went on family walks. He could walk a very short distance but would sit down so we always had to take the wheelchair with us. He was quite unfit and lacked energy to walk. This impacted how Niall saw the world and also limited a lot of the places we could take him to. It was challenging going around shops etc. Niall also did very little for himself. We dressed him every morning and attended to all his needs. He had very little independence. We had come to accept that this was the way life should be and Niall was content and happy.
Niall has undergone a total transformational change since starting at Camphill School Aberdeen. We are still amazed by the difference in him. We totally underestimated his ability and how much he could do for himself. The major change is that we have not used the wheelchair for over a year. It now gathers dust in the garage. For the first time ever, we travelled to see relatives and left the wheelchair at home. Niall managed to navigate two busy airports and walked confidently through security and boarded the plane. I could never have imagined this prior to starting Camphill.
He has lost weight and his diet has been widened significantly. He will try any new food and loves vegetables. Niall loves the animals and outdoor work. He thrives on encouragement and support. He also loves to swim and go for walks. Surprisingly, he has taken to felting, which we never could have imagined. His socialisation has greatly improved forming warm and caring relationships. The combination of exercise, food preparation and support has had an incredible impact on Niall and the whole family. He can now dress himself with very little help and he wants to do things for himself. Niall's concentration span is increasing and his ability to take decisions for himself is improving every day.
I do not want to think about what life would be like without Camphill. Niall and the whole family have benefited so much from the developments he has made. His older brothers can see the difference every time they come home to visit him.
We and Niall had accepted what we thought were his limitations, but we now realise his potential.
Phil's story - a staff member living on site
Q: Where you live now
A: Camphill Lodge, Camphill Estate
Q: What is your role
Q: What prompted you to become a co-worker
A: In August 2003, I was looking for a place to study and wanted to work towards becoming a teacher. I figured if I could learn to work with children and young people with additional support needs, I could teach anyone. I liked that the BA in Curative Education was practice based as I did not fancy learning in a class room full time. I was looking for a place where I could combine work and life.
Q: What different places have you lived and worked (as a co-worker)
A: Camphill School Aberdeen from the start. St Hilda’s, Camphill House, Witiko and now the Lodge.
Q: What are your key responsibilities
A: I am currently working as a teacher but equally loved the 10 years I spent house co-ordinating.
Q: What is the wow! factor of being a co-worker
A: The work with the pupils and supporting fellow co-workers on their journey.
Q: Any downsides of being a co-worker
A: Many, but the challenge has always been to transform these struggles into positive opportunities. Not always easy but often rewarding if you get it right.
Q: Would you recommend the shared way of living to others
A: Absolutely. I have witnessed and taken part in the miracle of life sharing and that is a huge part of why I am still here. We can learn so much from each other. My four children were born here, it is the place I was married and made many dear friends. My experience has always been that when we share and help each other we become ‘richer’ through our sacrifice.
Final comment: I am ever so grateful for the experiences I have made and continue to enjoy the challenge of living and working in community.