2011 was a busy year in the Bridge Community. It all started with big changes in the new year. Minna and Kalle and their children Arne and Helmi who were coworkers here several years ago had, to the delight of everybody decided to return from Finland.
And when we all looked at how we would make this possible we did find that the best place for them would be Isserín and that made it possible for Mischa and Gese to move to a small house in Kilcullen and for a while to live just as a family while continuing to support the community. So the community had a new house at No. 1 Newberry Castlemartin Lodge. However that was not the only new house in the making as throughout 2011 as a building site right in the middle of the community announced other changes to come.
A small new wheelchair friendly house for Siodhna and Marion as well as three coworkers, as well as a 2 bedroom apartment for Lorna and one coworker were raising out of the ground on the car park area between Manna and Isserín. The new house will be called Cruinn Roth and some people have already moved in from the beginning of December and Siodhna and Marion will move in on Stephens day. We also just received the news that Ross who had been a coworker in the Bridge and at Grangebeg many years ago has decided to rejoin the Bridge in January and we all look forward to see him again..
The community did a lot of future planning and looked at the question of management and leadership in a year that so many changes and a renewed vision for the future.
We had a short visit from a new day attendee by the name of Catherin for three months before she moved on to Ballymoney and two new day attendees by the name of Ana and Eimear joined throughout the year. But probably greater news for some of you will be that Holly finally joined the community as a resident and moved into Brìgheen in November. This had become possible because Michele had decided to join Mischa and Gese in Newberry to live a little in a more quieter household. Mischa’s and Gese’s Daughter Tara had been to Germany for 5 months as part of her transition year experience and she was sadly missed by many in the community.
There were of course other goodbyes this years, as last year’s coworkers left and new ones joined in the summer. Andre left the community after 2 years of service and the community wishes him all the best for his future back in Canada. Also Maelisa decided to pursue a different future after many years of helping in the coffeeshop and a new employee called Marietta joined to take on some of Maelisa’s responsibilities.
Joe and Marietta revamped An Tearmann to be ready for the Christmas season and made a huge effort to stock up with crafts and decorate the place. There seems to be a renewed buzz around the place and even though Ireland is in a recession we have managed to survive and keep going.
Manna has now become the main food provider for all the houses and the cooks go “Shopping” in the morning on a daily basis rather then buying on a large scale from Cash & Carry. This has also created opportunities for some of the people with special needs to run errands and avoids food going off in the houses. Pauline had to enlist the help of some people like Eimear and Siobhan to manage the extra workload but Manna seems alive and well.
Siodhna and Gese receiving a cheque from Annette McCarthy from the Kilcullen Lyons club fundraising for our new “Kilcullen Farm & Nature Trail”.
The land group has really worked very hard at the idea of a farm & nature trail open to the public of Kilcullen which would include a riverside walk, a wildlife preserve and some educational signs about animals and wildlife. The area down by our piece of swampland has been worked on to make it more accessible and many other changes are envisaged for next year. Our poultry is really a huge success , with turkeys and geese chicken and ducks populating much of our small farm and the orchard and garden.
The sheep were causing a bit of a stir this year as the particular breed that had been recommended to us as being very low maintenance turned out to be rather antisocial and not very community minded at all and we had to swap them with another breed that enjoyed human contact more and did not mind to be handled.
We had many local volunteers whose contribution to the community is invaluable and also some third level students in social care who did their work placements with our community.
As always our young coworkers have been fantastic this year and made such a huge contribution to the life here that it would be difficult to imagine a life without them. Thilo in particular did a fantastic project for his certificate course and produced a very moving life book with Kevin which was presented to the community in a very memorable evening that showed many photographs of Kevin’s past and was a real celebration of Kevin’s amazing life.
Geraldine became grandmother when her daughter Lisa had her first baby by the name of Zak, Margaret also became grandmother when Daffyd & his wife Ashling had a baby girl Sophie and Martha became great grandparent, opening the future for a whole new generation.
But these were not the only new arrivals. Our Sow had a miraculous litter of 13 piglets all of which survived and are healthy. The runt was handfed with goats milk by a hoard of volunteers and the piglets seemed to be the main tourist attraction of Kilcullen at one point this year with “cute” and “gorgeous” being frequent attributes assigned to them.
Sadly this year Justine’s mum Jean Nolan died at the age of 79 and many of us went to the funeral and the house afterwards where many memories of her and her husband Eamonn were relived to music chat and also laughter.
Arthur & Annemarie joined our community for a short stint as temporary house parents to help train in the new crew in Brìgheen and many people enjoyed seeing old familiar faces. Govinda & Binu took a longer visit to Nepal, their home country , which they had not been to, for over 3 years and had a chance to introduce their family to their son Suriansu. Kevin O’Kelly meanwhile did a guest appearance in Annamaes to stand in, to the delight of all his old friends from the past who loved to have the opportunity for chat and banter.
Ciaran finally moved into his own apartment behind Bardon’s only a stone’s throw from where he used to share a flat with Justin. Justin now decided to become independent and live on his own with some support given by people in the community but mostly from Joe who supports Justin with shopping-, cooking- and other skills. Justin is looking for a supported employment placement outside the community and only time will tell where all that is going to go. Siodhna meanwhile is working with a key worker from KARE on her own future and what she hopes to do in her day time hours. Many ideas are floating around but the new year will see what is possible. Marion this year has worked in Grangebeg two afternoons a week and Colm has joined the National Learning network group for basketball once a week.
And there has been much learning going on this year. Many people took night time classes in computers or cookery or other pursuits and there have been a load of training courses in the community from CPI to patient handling and advanced emergency epilepsy training. Gese and Joe are doing a training as Care Assistants at FETAC level 5 and people are going to many conferences and training days all over the place.
We had many parties and discos and in September hosted a cultural evening with poetry reading and songs and music which was part of a national event the was happening all over Ireland. We got many friends and neighbours to join in bell ringing and Lyre playing and many described this as their first time to play a musical instrument. Of course many in our community have been very busy practising as part of the Camphill County Kildare Orchestra which after several sessions with John Billing that kick-started this impulse, was busy throughout the year learning musical pieces and performing at several occasions largely headed by Vicky from Grangebeg and Gese form the Bridge. The whole thing culminated in a massive music week in Dingle in November where over 90 musicians from throughout Camphill in Ireland and beyond had a wonderful week of music and fun ending with a full scale concert which was performed to the public.
The community of course went on villager holidays again this year which were enjoyed by everyone. The destinations were Munich, Spain, Wales and Vienna, where a small group joined a European congress on the theme “Living in the Encounter” and Siodhna even managed to get into Austrian television.
The community was very busy producing a play for Easter Michaelmas and Christmas, and the hall which is used for so many events has finally been christened and received the name “Artaban”.
As our community is busy preparing for Christmas and our Santa sleigh is getting ready for its appearance on the streets of Kilcullen I want to take a moment to wish all our ex-coworkers, volunteers and friends a wonderful Christmas time and a happy 2012.
I know that it is very early but 2013 will be the 21st Birthday of the Bridge Community and we plan for a week of celebrations in mid August 2013 and would like all ex-coworkers and friends of the community to come and join us for a reunion of so many people that we have not seen for a long time. We will in 2012 set up a facebook page to keep in touch about more plans but maybe it is enough for people to know now that this event will take place and to pencil it into their calendar for long-term travel plans for 2013.