The 'boring' stuff:
It's not a camp. It's not a college. It's not a group home. Soltane is an intentional community for young adults with developmental disabilities. We live together, cook together, play together, work together, fail together, learn together, succeed together, and grow together. I didn't have words to explain Soltane before I left home, and I'm not sure I have the words to explain it now. But, I'll give it my best shot.
Soltane was founded on the idea of the spiritual understanding of the human being, the Earth, and the Universe. (sounds pretty hippietastic, eh?) From Soltane's website: Our foundation in anthroposophy manifests itself in the recognition that each human being is made up of a body, soul, and spirit, and we believe each of these aspects has the capacity to grow, develop and learn. We recognize that each person is on an inner journey, and we can actively support each other by the ways we live, learn, and work together.
I'll just put out the nitty gritty so you don't have to wonder about it and feel to ashamed to ask me. Yes, students and residents help cook dinner. No, that doesn't mean they get to mix the salad.. or set out the plates, they get to use knives and the oven. What? What if the student cut themselves? What if they burn the house down? Today I learned.. assume competence. At Soltane, we assume that the student has the knowledge of daily living. At home, some parents are very protective of their children, and rightfully so, they don't want their precious ones to get hurt or upset. But, how will someone learn if you never give them the chance to learn? One can't know how to brush their teeth if you do it for them each and every day. They need to hold the toothbrush, to feel the power and happiness of being able to take care of themselves. Some students need help in the shower, but that doesn't mean the next time they take a shower we just do everything for them, we teach, a thousand times over if need be, until they learn.
The 'fun' stuff:
So, what do I do here? Like I said earlier, I live in a huge house with 10 people. 5 co-workers and 5 students/residents. The students aren't here yet so I can't tell you much about them.. but the stories I've heard are awesome and I can't wait to meet them this Saturday! I am not assigned a student, I'll just be around, just another one of the students basically! I have been placed in the Orchard, where I'll work 3 days a week. The Orchard is one of Soltane's most amazing features. There are 200 apple trees, pear trees, berry bushes, and veggie gardens covering the 52 acre campus. I'll be working with students/residents giving them meaningful work. We turn organic apples into cider or apple butter. We process the berries and make them into jams and spreads. We harvest tomatoes and make spaghetti sauce. Then, the things that we produce are sold in the campus store. These things are used to cook with in the houses which then feed all the hungry people living inside! What an amazing feeling for these students/residents to say that they literally created the sauce, jam, jelly, or cider from a seed! A tiny little seed!
I also will be an assistant in 3 classes in the afternoons throughout the week. On Mondays I will be taking the students to the local YMCA to swim. On Fridays I am in a hiking class. Not sure what all that entails, but it should be exciting. The other class I'm in is Eurythmy. Eurythmy is a therapeutic movement activity. I also do not know what this entails but everyone says it's pretty fun. :)
The people in this community are awesome. Everyone is super friendly here and really laid back. We have eaten lots of funky things, all organic, but I have a secret stash of Oreos and candies, so no worries. I found out I really, really, really do not like anything with goat's milk in it, at all. My room is really nice, and I have my own bathroom! There isn't an emphasis on technology at Soltane. It's more about community and being together. We do not have a microwave. We have a T.V. but it's only for after hours and only plays DVD's. There are radios but they're only for special occasions. I do not pay for anything here, and I've been provided with everything. It's such a blessing because I won't have to worry about bills, groceries, rent
The students get here on Saturday and I am a huge jumble of emotions. My year here is just about to begin and I hope that it's the most fantastic year ever!