The following blog post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow, Violet Child-Lanning.

August 25th, the first night I slept in my upstate New York placement. Lying in an unfamiliar bed, I started to laugh. This was it- I was really here, independently making and carrying out major life-changing decisions far away from everyone and everything I am familiar with. My laughter came from a place of excitement, and a sort of disbelief- what had I just gotten myself into?

     A kind of paradise. I am finding that that is what I have gotten myself into. Camphill Village Copake is a community in which around 200 people with and without developmental differences live, work, and play together. On 615 acres of forest, swamp, and rolling meadows, we exist in harmony with the animals and plants we care for and that in turn nourish us. Life here is beautiful. The village is made up of fun and loving farmers, gardeners, and crafters. People here are completely genuine in their kindness and desire to connect with and help others. I am so glad and grateful to be here.

    I have gained many new responsibilities since my arrival. Above everything else comes providing whatever care people in the community are unable to give themselves. This means anything from buttoning a coat to administering meds from a locked cabinet- something I had to take a course and be tested on before doing. Along with providing whatever general care is needed, I also have to show up for work! On Monday mornings I’m in the candle shop, cutting wicks, dipping, and footing beeswax candles of all shapes and sizes. Tuesday and Thursday mornings I am in the cafe. There, we cook lunch for around 80 people. We serve half the village at the beginning of the week and the other at the end. On Wednesday and Friday I prepare lunch for the folks I live with in Hickory house, and any guests we are hosting- about 10 to 13 people.

Every afternoon I work in the Healing Plant Garden growing and processing herbs to make teas, lotions, spice mixes and more. I sometimes work on the farm as well, milking the cows by hand and walking them in from and out to pasture. I split logs with an axe, my favorite job- it makes me feel powerful! The work I do here is sometimes exhausting, but always rewarding.

My favorite thing about the village is of course the people here. I have made meaningful connections with people of all ages, and all kinds of backgrounds. The fact that no one here knew anything about me when I arrived and therefore has no preconceived notions about me is thrilling! This is an opportunity to be whoever I want, and to therefore find the kind of adult I want to be moving forward in my life.

I am practicing being completely authentic no matter who is watching, and I am learning to better advocate for myself. Since coming here I have settled into myself, my confidence level is higher than ever and I am happy nearly all the time. I am thriving in the accepting and communal lifestyle here. I have learned that I need to stay busy and connected with others. I love physical work and getting dirty. I need to be outside often.

I laugh so much here. I have not cried since I arrived. I am completely content in Camphill Village Copake, but looking forward to the adventures awaiting me when my time here comes to an end.