Friday, 4 January 2013

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Life in The Bridge Community in 2012

If there is one thing that sticks out in 2012 in the Bridge Community it must be the creation of our Farm and Nature Trail. It has been a dream for several years and some people had been working away at small parts of it for some while. And we even did some fundraising for it and foolish people such as Annette McCarthy in a fit of madness decided to jump out of an aeroplane to raise funds for it. But by and large we always thought of it as something we might make happen over 5 years or so.

It was some form of coincidence that Denis O’Reilly a man who had founded a company called Difference Days met us looking for a project large enough to keep a team of 250 corporate volunteers busy on their company day out. And even better the company that freed them for their corporate responsibility day, that was also a team building exercise, pledged to cover any material costs of such a project. In short it was too good to miss and so we had a massive group of people descending on Kilcullen on the 4th of July and we completed all 750m of the Farm & Nature Trail in one day. What an amazing achievement!

Kalle also built a large roofed over BBQ area with a cob structure Pizza oven in the shape of a rabbit (or might it be an owl?) We had a festive opening of the trail as part of the Kilcullen Riverside Festival in August and Siobhan cut the ribbon as part of a ceremony that included bell ringing and speeches and a big crowd that enjoyed this amazing new amenity in the middle of Kilcullen. Minna and Kalle must have served 250 pizzas on that day to a never-ending stream of walkers on a stroll around the trail .

It was in September that the icing was put on the cake when Denis empowered us by organising a second difference day to build a Gazebo and some decking areas overlooking the river and some picnic areas and benches as well as several other tweaks. It would probably be fair to say that all of us suffered from some exhaustion at that point as the days had required a huge amount of preparation work and input from everybody in the community never mind the catering and all other frills that were a part of these days.

But it was all worthwhile when in the middle of October the community was publicly acknowledged for its contribution to the people of Kilcullen at a community awards night in the Town Hall and won a big trophy to take home. I believe that the achievement of this project has not only won us much good will from the wider community of Kilcullen but also put the work of our farm and garden team in the context of serving the wider community of Kilcullen and creating and maintaining a much appreciated community amenity.

2012 was the first year for Cruinn Roth as a new house community, with Siodhna and Marion as well as Tony Julia and Akemi being the first group in that household. A lovely housewarming party was had in February with many local friends exploring the beautiful spaces. This change was a huge improvement not only for the people in the new house, but also in IsserĂ­n where after many years there are now only 11 (+Lorna) instead of 16 people living there. Kevin Colm Justine and Leonard (but also Minna and Kalle and Aarni and Helmi) enjoy their new (more peaceful) lifestyle.
Lorna also moved into her new apartment called Bramble Cottage which is attached to Cruinn Roth. And Lorna is also exploring being more independent and having some meals on her own.

Ross joined our community in January after returning from Camphill in Germany. It’s great to have him back in Ireland and he is enjoying his new stint at the Bridge. He and Mischa were a part of the production of “Les Miserables - The Play” in the Town hall as a part of the Kilcullen Drama Group and Ross showed amazing talent as a prisoner, sergeant, revolutionary (all with a somewhat American ;-) accent).
After many years of contributing to our community Geraldine Doran left the Community to work for Dunshane. An Tearmann will not be the same without her. However she was not allowed to go without a huge Goodbye Party in our hall with many photographs and memories from the past being shared and dancing late into the evening.

Jo and Marietta made a huge effort to fill those boots and to reinvigorate An Tearmann with a new menu and many interesting small crafts and gifts. We have been lucky that the public even in a recession have come out in force to support our coffeeshop and it continues to be a thriving business with a difference. Customers can of course still get their own cup of coffee and smile about the Camphill Stress ;-).

Eleanor Sutherland has joined us to run the weaving workshop as a new work master. She has much experience in craft work and brings a lovely calm atmosphere to the workshop. That peace however was somewhat disrupted by a group of young gentlemen joining our community. From September we have been running a pilot 4 year Rehabilitative Training Programme for school leavers. Peter, James, Michael, Mark have certainly brought a breath of fresh air into the community. The programme is run together with Grangebeg community and all the newbies are gathering various work and educational experiences in the activities that we can offer within the two communities. And what’s more Jan Culley who was a coworker with us in the past and has finally finished her studies, rejoined us as the programme coordinator for the RT programme. We are glad to see her again!

Siobhan Dunlea celebrated her 40th birthday in a great party with the community and her family in the Fitzgerald hotel in Dublin and all of us were dancing away in great style into the early hours.

Siodhna has been exploring some options for doing things outside the community and seems to have found a new vocation in attending important meetings and advocating on behalf of people with disabilities at different national forums as well as the Camphill Council Meetings! This has partly become possible as we have been able to employ Geraldine Kelly (who is also a driver) as her new personal assistant for some hours every week. Siodhna and Geraldine seem to be getting on great and their travels are certainly creating some new spice in Siodhna’s life.

We also have been joined by Catherine, William and Laura (who has previously had a work placement in the Bridge as part of her Studies). Catherine has joined the team in the office, William in the bakery and Laura is supporting the work in the houses. They are joining us for a year as part of a new TUS employment programme (replacing FAS) which is funded by the department of Social Welfare.

David has re-found his passion for Golf and in the capable hands of personal mentors Hillary Pallister and Bernard Berney is training for the special Olympics. You never know but there may still be a qualification for the World Special Olympics on the cards. Christine and Marion are working in Grangebeg for 2 afternoons each week and Christine is showing a rare talent for creating bowls that are really beautiful, of which she can be very proud. Gese and Joe finally finished their FETAC level 5 certificate in health care after much study and hardship. And all this learning is continuing with Ross, Ben and Kalle embarking on courses from Health Care to biodynamics to human resource management. Training is key also for the whole new bunch of young coworkers that have joined us from July who are (as always) a great bunch of people and their contribution is much valued. We have expanded our coworker induction to a proper structured 4 month programme (PowerPoint presentations and all).

The land is still populated with all our animals with nearly 20 turkeys (probably not aware of Christmas looming) enjoying the high life. We have expanded our chicken population and the ducks and geese are still making a racket. We also have had some polish roosters and silky greys added to our zoo. The sheep had lambs and the pigs... well there is a story for you. We had organised for the boar to return in the spring to do his duty and while we thought that a good time was had by all and that the sow seemed to look bigger and bigger, we were expecting a new litter any moment and the whole town seemed to wait in expectation.... eehh it all seemed to be much ado about nothing... or as somebody put it as a new condition to be observed in the pig world: It was a phantom pregnancy (if there is such a thing). This certainly caused some amusement and talking point for the community for a while. We also had a small but tasty crop of our own spuds this year which were cultivated by hand (yes a lot of digging was involved).

Of course the whole year would count for nothing if it was not for the villager holidays! The destinations are becoming ever more diverse and the groups smaller in size as a result. People travelled to Krakow, Berlin, Spain and Portugal and some people preferred a more local trip to Connemara and Belfast. It was the first year for Ben (from the office) and Eimear Ryan to join the villager holidays and make this experience, while most people have become very seasoned travellers indeed.
The community was also busy with plays at Michaelmas and Christmas and had an amazing evening on “Culture Night” when local musicians Roy Thompson and Brian Byrne joined the Camphill Kildare orchestra of lyre players and bell ringers in a beautiful evening of music attended by many people from the wider community.
The young coworkers took the initiative to organise a Halloween party to remember, with Grangebeg and Dunshane joining us for the occasion on a scary walk around the Nature trail and a pumpkin carving competition with a disco and games after.
Also on St. Martin’s Day the coworkers had the impulse to arrange a wonderful lantern walk around our Farm & Nature Trail . (You see how the Farm and nature trail has crept into different areas of life here...?!)

The autumn also saw us starting a revamping process of the 2 storage rooms outside Manna into a multi-purpose workshop that will become a new home for the RT programme, but also serve as a food processing workshop and a space for felting, card making or other pursuits. This promises to become a beautiful room that will make better use of this space in the centre of our community.

In November we held a vision day to review the last two years and look forward into the future. The biggest challenge will be around replacing Brìgheen house with either a more permanent structure onsite or some houses in the wider community of Kilcullen. It was invaluable to get input for creating a picture of the future and gather ideas as well as listen to worries and concerns from such a large group of stakeholders, including villagers, coworkers, family members and local people.
On a sad note this year also saw the passing of Janet Pederson who had been a retired coworker at the Bridge Community at one point .

But probably the most strong impression on all of us was the departure of Dermot O’Shea on the 29th of November - he had suffered from a heart attack from which he did not recover. Dermot was very involved in the early years of the Bridge Community when he and Margaret joined the small group of pioneers as external co-workers and contributed to the community in many ways. He was the key gardener for many years, a gentle and kind person who was very modest and shy and yet faithful and steadfast in his dedication to the garden of the community. Dermot has been retired for some years and yet contributed in small ways whenever there was anything the he could help with. He will be missed by all of us.

Govinda and Binu are expecting another baby and have decided to leave next year. We wish them all the best for their future.

As you can see things have been very busy this year and the community, while as always being challenging, seems alive, dynamic and well. As always if any of you feel inspired to touch base, write to us or maybe even consider to rejoin the community as long-term coworkers let us know. This is an exciting place to be at the moment. There are plans for a 21st birthday reunion under foot and the programme for this will be circulated separately. Hope to see many of you there.

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a light filled New Year from everyone at The Bridge Community