Camphill Corbenic in Scotland
February 19, 2018 / Volunteering
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Hi everyone! Or as I used to say at home: “Saina Bainaa!”. Last three years, working as a guide near Baikal Lake, I could not stop looking for a job abroad. Hundreds and thousands tourists that I met inspired me with their passion for travelling. However, all the time something stopped me, once kind of activity, then country, then climate… Last year finally, Scotland perfectly matched me, I found myself in community for people with learning disabilities. Every day I understand that my decision to go there was the true one. It seems to me now, that I’ve lived completely different life and taken part in film simultaneously. Everything that happened to me was so unfamiliar. If you also crave for changes in your routine, want to test yourself, start from the beginning, stay in isolation for a while and in the same time open your heart to others, so my telling is for you. As for “little bonuses” of this adventure, so you’ll improve your English and explore the most fascinating country of the world. You heart starts beating faster, doesn’t it? So, let’s go!
To start with, I’ll say a few words about the community. Corbenic is a part of wide-scale camphill net, founded in Scotland in 1939. Timid attempt to save children with special needs from horrors of war turned into world movement. Initially it was school, but children had grown up and they needed help to find their feet. Thus, it formed into the chain as “school-college-community for adults”. In the beginning of 1950s camphills were already founded in England, Northern Ireland, later in Germany, Norway, Finland, America, South Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Nowadays the number of them is more than 120 around the world.
Corbenic, where I was, is a camphill of middle scale. Around 38 adult residents permanently live there, and 5-6 people come for working hours. They are from 18 to 70, in different condition, but one thing unites them, it’s mental decline. Nevertheless, most of them live according to the main principle of camphills – live and work together.
Well, about LIVING
Corbenic is located in strikingly beautiful place, surrounded by mighty forest with fabulous oaks; there is rapid mountain river, fields and hundreds of sheep, rabbits and deer. Community consists of six houses. It may be a separate house, or a just a floor. Each house has its name, budget, property and residents. No one calls them “patients” or “sick people”, they are residents. Mostly residents are independent: move, eat and, pardon me, go to toilet by themselves. We were as a support service, helped to get up in the mornings and go to bed, take a shower or bath, put on clothes for work according to weather, and accompanied them when walking anywhere. Of course, there were some complicated residents, who almost didn’t speak, walked with help only, suffered from incontinence and had to wear nappy-pants. Usually they were distributed among all houses, so that one house would not have too many hard cases. Shortly, one house had one complicated resident.
Traditionally, every house is a “family” and it has “house parents”. It may be a couple or just two experienced people. The main principle of volunteer’s distribution is that you will be in house with deficit of people. Under the roof of the house I lived in, the whole world joined together: Germany, America, Columbia and Russia. I was the oldest in the house. When it was difficult to accept something in work, I thought about others, younger one. Yesterday's schoolchildren can do it, why I can’t? I totally admired each of them. Hardly could I in my 18 make up my mind to go in alien country for a year and participate in such project. But they do, especially there are a lot of young people from Germany and Hungary. Less number of volunteers but permanent came from Spain, Brazil and Korea. The age of volunteers varies from 18 to 65 years old.
Apart from the everyday routine such as “getting up, washing, eating”, all volunteers and residents were engaged in different workshops. There were more than 10. Before arrival volunteer had to choose kinds of activity from the list according to priority. Volunteer is not obliged to follow the chosen preferences, he can change in at place. But if there is a strong need in people in exact workshop, out of his list, he has to go there, just because it’s his duty. Usually, volunteers work on one chosen workshop and one compulsory, so to say. There is one unspoken rule – you have to work in one workshop for not less than six months. Then you can change it. It is great, that your coordinator is always in contact and cares about you. So if you feel totally uncomfortable, the workshop can be changed. At the same time, you should keep in mind, that you are a volunteer and have to be ready for nearly everything.
In Corbenic you can work in following spheres: cafe and souvenir shop, small grocery store, garden and vegetable garden, tiny domestic garden, bakery, farm, stable, ceramic and candle workshops, Estate (chopping wood, cutting branches on trees), laundry or cooking dinner for your house (6-11 people). Every workshop has its workshop leader, 2-3 volunteers and 3-6 residents. We worked from Monday to Friday, 9:30-12:30, than stopped for a lunch, and keep working from 14:30 till 17:00. It should be noted that beside workshops, each volunteer has one morning shift (7:00 - 9:30) or evening shift (17:00 - 21:00) every day.
At present, volunteers have 2 days off in week and 15 days of vacation in a year. This daily timetable is quite light, but I had heavier schedule the greater part of the project, 10 months, which was traditional there for decades. One more pleasant bonus of community that you are allowed to invite 2-3 guests at once and they can stay in your house. Volunteer has 10 day for guests’ visit in a year. During my year, all my colleagues invited relatives and friends except Estaban from Columbia. First few days they are free as guests, and if they stay longer – help with housekeeping.
Corbenic is for you, if:
- You can embrace a new, you are flexible and open-minded.
Camphill system is mostly based on anthroposophy, founded by Rudolf Steiner and biblical principles. First time in my life I celebrated catholically Christmas, Easter, went to the Sunday service with residents and once even sang to cattle on farm at night. In general, celebration of various holidays plays a great role in life of community.
- You are ready to be responsible for other people, in the most serious meaning of this word.
To lead the resident by the hand across pedestrian crosswalk or to give medicine on time – these are puzzles of everyday work.
- You are patient and stress-resistant.
There are residents, who can say: “Today the sky is blue and there’s no rain” or “What will we have for lunch?” for 20 times a day. But you can get used to it, if you draw attention to other things.
- You love out-of-town, almost country life-style, are ready for physical labour.
When I had a skype interview, there was a question about my attitude towards country life-style. It’s appeared to be that a lot of applicants turn down when learn such details as distance to the closest town (it is 5-6 km), absence of large molls, cafes, cinemas and so on. But every Saturday residents and volunteers may go to cinema, park, museum and even pub.
- You like weather with frequent rains, when you can spend evenings by the fire place. You don’t mind summer with maximum heat 28°C (one-two days).
The most important details for those, who want to set off for Corbenic as a volunteer:
- be able at least to speak in English fluently;
- be ready to some expenses (volunteer pays for visa to Great Britain - around $448-537, buys air tickets);
- be ready to provide “police check” (reference that you have no convictions) and reference of X-ray examination;
- you have 2 acquaintance, who can write a review on you in English (according to the list of questions). They should not be friends or relatives.
Corbenic will provide you:
- full board and health insurance (all specter of medical service except dentistry);
- accommodation (usually single room, sometimes double room);
- pocket money (165£ per month). It is suitable amount, especially when you don’t need to pay for food and room. I managed to travel almost the whole Scotland and Great Britain around;
- Corbenic organizes and holds trainings (first aid, autism, help people with epilepsy spells, safe cooking and etc.). At the end of my year the English lesson started. I attended 5 and enjoyed them greatly;
- compensate expenses for return ticket (max. 500£).
And moreover, Corbenic gave me this feeling of being at home, peace of mind and fascinating friends. I’ve never met so many bright, I dare say, unique people in one place. I mean both, volunteers and residents. You think, it is you who helps them, but the truth is that they contribute to your soul much more. Volunteer admission to Corbenic carries out all year around, but the largest sessions are on January, February and August, September. Theoretically, you can apply to other camphills in Scotland. Going to one of the first camphills, in Aberdeen, you’ll get closer to origin of camphill movement. Or you can set off to camphill in capital, in Edinburgh. On each website it’s easy to find section on volunteering. However, I was sent to Corbenic and I am gratified by that fact. I was the third volunteer from Russia for whole 39 years history of Corbenic and would be happy if my story encourages somebody to go there. I am ready to reply to questions of people, who really want to take part in that program.
Corbenic Camphill http://www.corbeniccamphill.co.uk
Website of all camphill in Scotland with vacancies https://www.camphillscotland.org.uk/
Author of the text and photo - Elvira Dorzhieva
Instagram about Scotland, USA and other places by_martaarai
Profile in VKontakte - Elvira Dorzhieva
Translated by – Inga Nazarova
Date of event - November 2016 - November 2017
Date of publication - 19.02.2018