The volunteer opportunity with a unique difference

Learn more about the gap year opportunity attracting volunteers from across the globe to a unique community nestled in 600 acres of wood and farmland in upstate New York.

The volunteer opportunity with a unique difference
Volunteers and residents at Camphill Village. Photo: Camphill Village

The people at Camphill Village grow their own vegetables, perform various crafts, and generally share a simpler way of life. They engage in cultural and artistic activities, go on regular outings to see concerts or visit local farmers’ markets, and often interact with other local communities.

All in all, it’s a peaceful place to experience an alternative lifestyle and refresh one’s spirit.

There’s just one small difference between Camphill Village and other rural communities.

Of the 230 men, women and children living in the community, 100 have developmental differences.

Find out more about volunteering at Camphill Village

That’s what makes Camphill Village in Copake, New York so special. It’s a therapeutic life-sharing community established in the 1960s where villagers, people with developmental disabilities, and volunteers live together and contribute equally to make their community thrive.

Volunteer SaraMae works with Mishka in the Seed-Saving Workshop. Photo: Camphill Village

Each year, the village welcomes dozens of new volunteers aged 19 and over, who come from all over the world to support people with developmental disabilities, learn new skills, and brush up on English if it’s their second language.

Volunteers travel from across the globe, coming to Camphill Village from as far as Asia, Europe and Africa. Others, like Dan Hayden from New Jersey, aren’t a world away from home — even if it feels like it.

“Being from a suburb in New Jersey, Camphill is like nothing I’d ever seen before. Being up here in the mountains is another kind of beauty,” he told The Local.

Since arriving at Camphill earlier in 2017, Dan has been impressed by how well the residents with disabilities handle their everyday tasks.

“Having the farm with all the animals, and seeing the people with certain abilities being so independent and moving a whole herd of cattle on their own, and being so lively, it’s an attractive place to me.”

Volunteers spend a year at Camphill Village, although often, like Zimbabwean national Noma Motsi who has been there for one year, end up staying longer.

Noma first heard about Camphill Village from her aunt while she was living in South Africa. As a student, she did not have the chance to be particularly active in her home community and saw it as an opportunity to give something back.

“That’s what brought me to Camphill. The idea of discovering yourself while helping others and not expecting anything in return,” she told The Local.

Noma (right) has been volunteering at Camphill for over a year now. Photo: Camphill Village

Noma’s eyes have been opened by her time at Camphill, both by working with the residents and by meeting other volunteers from all over the world. Over the one year she’s been there, she has worked with volunteers from countries such as China, Guatemala, and Latvia.

“It can really change something in you,” she says. “You become a better person which is what the world needs right now. It’s a different lifestyle, but life is about risk-taking.”

Noma’s fellow volunteer, Antonia Goevert from Germany, first heard about Camphill Village when she graduated from high school. She had been feeling uncertain about her next move but knew for the time being she wanted to do something meaningful.

Seeking something different, Antonia got in touch with her local volunteering agency which told her about Camphill Village. She liked the sound of it straight away and spent a year living in the community.

“The whole concept was very interesting to me. It’s always worth it to try something different and learn something new. At Camphill Village, it’s like brightening up the horizon and you grow as a person too.”

Among other daily tasks, she spent her afternoons working in the candle shop where she learned how to dip candles and work with beeswax.

Learn more about Camphill Village gap year/service year programs

“It’s so nice to do something crafty, it’s something I’ve never done before. It’s great because you develop new skills.”

She says she would wholeheartedly recommend Camphill Village to other young people interested in volunteering, describing it as the “best decision”.

The three volunteers unanimously agree that Camphill Village offers perspective and the chance to get a better sense of self all while giving something back to the community.

As Dan puts it: “This place has so many opportunities in so many different areas. It’s an amazing place for growth and change.”

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Camphill Village Copake.



Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany