Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Camphill Moment

khinchey's picture

There are so many moments at Camphill that ran through my head when I first read this prompt. Our week at Camphill Village was incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging for me personally. My experience with my villager Gaby was also full of ups and downs. One moment that particularly stood out happened when Gaby gave me a tour of her house, Helios.


Throughout the week as I learned more about what Mimi called “Gaby B****** Syndrome” I also started to notice the adaptations the people in Gaby’s life made to deal with her sometimes volatile behavior. Gaby had a penchant for yelling (and sometimes pinching) people who disrupted her routine. Though Gaby had a lot to say about the people around her, she only ever got visibly frustrated with me once during our week. I feel that this gave me a sort of objectivity (or maybe a subjective bias ;-) ) when Gaby had her episodes. I had been told by other Villagers that Gaby had been moved several times due to her distrupting other households. When we ascended the stairs to Helios I very quickly figured out that Gaby had been moved to the attic to separate her from the others in the household.


When we walked into the hallway I was immediately frustrated with the Camphill staff. I felt like this was yet another moment where Gaby had experienced unnecessary segregation or maltreatment due to systemic failures and a lack of support from Camphill. These moments happened far too often during my week at Camphill and I still feel incredibly protective of her.


Gaby’s room was large and full of everything Gaby. It amazed me how much of her personality I hadn’t yet unlocked even with spending hours upon hours with her. She had three bookcases, a guest bed, and tons of personal knickknacks all around the room. Gaby excitedly showed me her photo albums and gave me a tour of her life with her parents. I was shocked to see how young she looked so few years ago and my heart ached for the pain and isolation I knew she was experiencing. She took me to every shelf in the room and showed me her countless books (she LOVES reading) and softball trophies.


My favorite part of the afternoon was when I asked Gaby to show me her lyre. Riva and I had talked about it being a central part of Gaby’s portrait and I had come to take pictures. She delicately unwrapped it from its handsewn dark blue cloth case, covered in stars. The lyre was beautiful and Gaby’s face lit up. I asked her if she would play it for me and I sat down on the floor as she played for a long time. She was completely at peace. It really did feel like time stopped and she and her lyre became one. All of the frustration that seemed to pour out of her was nowhere in sight. She just had that mischievous grin on her face as she plucked away.

I realized then how little credit I had been giving Gaby in regards to adapting to the problematic environment of Camphill. Even after being in disability studies for so many weeks and having so much personal experience as a caregiver- I was being naively overprotective again. Gaby’s space was entirely hers and she knew exactly what to do for her own self-care. She practices the lyre everyday after all.