Friday, 17 January 2014

Life in The Bridge Community in 2013

The year 2013 was a special year for The Bridge Community. One of the earliest moments of The Bridge was when its first house community was created in August of 1992 in Gormanstown House as some of you may remember. In many ways it was the birth of the “Life Community” of The Bridge (although we had already worked on the creation for a year prior to this moment). It is not without reason that a 21st Birthday is celebrated in many cultures as a watershed moment, a coming of age and with that a certain growing awareness of one’s path and direction in life. And of course we would not let such a day pass without grasping the opportunity to have a huge party and reunion to celebrate. But more of that later.

In January Govinda and Binu left the community after 2 years, to live in Dublin, where in February they had a new baby girl by the name of Shahjyadi, which means princess in Nepalese. Ross had already moved to Annamaes where he became house coordinator. The young coworkers organised a romantic Valentines party together with Dunshane and Grangebeg.

It was just after Easter that Harry, who had many years ago been a coworker in Dunshane and visited us in the previous year, finally joined our community and moved into Brìgheen as well as Maria Rosa who had recovered from her previous years ill health and after her time in Dunshane and Grangebeg finally found her home in The Bridge Community where nearly a year and a half prior, she had applied in the first instance. (Funny how life sometimes plays out).

Much work was done on the finishing touches for the “Farm and Nature Trail” and Kalle finished the pizza oven proper, with a nice grassed area and a campfire place looking over the river.
The National Office of Camphill Communities of Ireland had a temporary home in the bedroom above Manna in rather squashed circumstances and Joe Lynch and Adrienne Smith, who are the new national coordinators, became for a while a regular feature of our community until the office moved to Dunshane in the summer.
A real highlight of the year was the first St. Patrick’s Parade in Kilcullen. We had a giant St. Patrick and a 20m long green snake brought to life by more than 20 people and it was amazing how the whole town was in awe of our snake.
Sarah Gillespie an ex-coworker from Kyle Camphill Community joined us as an external coworker and was a great help in many areas.
The Coffeeshop team was completely rushed off its feet when another coffeeshop in Town closed and this year has set new records in all areas. Credit to all the team in An Tearmann and the bakery who have worked extremely hard to make this happen even in the middle of a recession. And Marion O’Leary became a part time employee helping out especially on Saturdays which have become very busy indeed. By the way, Jo, as if she has not been busy enough also became a grandmother this year, when her daughter Michele had a baby by the name of Cian.
We had Max and Elaine with their lovely children Alex and Emily visiting us from Liverpool in the spring, as well as Tim and Becky from the South of England who were all considering a new direction. This meant that we had a very large group of new people joining us in August and September, so change all around.

Helmi had left the community in July to take up a special course in an arts based college back home in Finland. And of course all of this was followed by Minna and Kalle and Aarni leaving us in December which had been planned for, for a while and was a transition that was probably as smooth as it could be. This was due to a large extent to Minna’s and Kalle’s effort in training in new house coordinators and helping everyone in the community to adjust. There was many a tear when Minna and Kalle were finally about to leave and the leaving party in Isserín was a very emotional occasion which highlighted how much both of them had contributed and become part of the core of our community.

This year has seen many coworkers come and go with only Ross, Gese and Mischa still here from the beginning of the year. But it is wonderful to see that people are still joining the Bridge and passing the baton to a new group to go into the future.

Siodhna’s career as a professional meeting goer really took off this year with her joining Council meetings and her meetings on the National self advocates platform of Inclusion Ireland taking her to Dublin on a more regular basis than most of the rest of us mere mortals. But Siodhna was not the only one exploring new career options.

Christine had several work placements in other coffee shops by the name of “An ChistÍn” and “The Hokey-Pokey” in Newbridge and started to use the bus to Newbridge for travelling independently. Both Christine and Siobhan have now retired from any involvement with An Tearmann on Saturdays and James from the RT Programme and David took on the honour to keep the show on the road on Saturdays. A real generational shift!

2013 was also the year of round Birthdays. First it was Kevin’s 40th Birthday in March and he and his birthday mate Tara had a bopping party with “The Ugly Germans “ Rock Band playing live in our hall. Then it was Brendan’s 60th Birthday in June, and the very festive occasion with many visiting friends from the past, was a very affirmative moment of Brendan’s journey on the path of life and the path of community. Margaret celebrated her 70th birthday in November also in our hall with some life
classical music and singing. And last in the year, Gese will be celebrating her 50th Birthday just after Christmas.

On a different note we also had the sad news of Siobhan’s mum passing away in November after a long struggle with dementia. The community came in force to support Siobhan at the funeral. Breda Dunlea and her husband, who had died many years prior had been staunch supporters of Camphill in the early years of Dunshane when they were involved in many fundraising activities.
In November a group from the Bridge Community with Gese, Leonard, Michelle and others went to join the National Camphill Orchestra in a week long workshop in Dingle culminating in a festive concert.
It was earlier in the year that we had finished the renovation and extension of what used to be a store room between the office and Manna. This has been miraculously transformed by Sean and Ciaran into what is the home for our transitional training programme for school leavers as well as our food processing workshop. The beautiful space with curved windows overlooking our garden has finished off the last area in our workshop buildings to be transformed. The room which is called Athrú Le Cheile is a much needed resource that is also used for baking bread for the houses, making Christmas cards, art and some other workshops.

The Transitional Training Programme run jointly between Grangebeg and The Bridge has been expanded in the summer to include five more trainees. Michael, James, and Peter have been promoted to apprentices and Mark is still exploring his work with dragons both inner and outer, with visible progress.

The new trainees Evan, Megan, Karolina, Niamh and Sam have been a great addition to our community. The new intake of trainees has also enabled us to recruit Esther Magera to join Jan in her work in coordinating the programme and there is a real air of youthfulness around that is refreshing if at times also challenging.
We had a lovely Michaelmas Festival and play and enjoyed the Halloween Party hopping as always.

Our sow finally had a litter of 10 piglets after several phantom pregnancies in the previous year. They were soooo cute and Nele and Sebastian slept in the barn overnight to make sure that everything went alright.

And this was also the year of concert goers with Holly Kevin Justin and Siobhan enjoying The Simple Minds, Bon Jovi and Wet Wet Wet.
As every year people managed to holiday all over the place with Villager Holidays in Paris, Spain, Hamburg, Prague, Cork, Sicily and Galway.

Christine also accompanied Maria Rosa on a 10 day trip to Holland. It seems that all holidays are now in smaller groups and much more individualised.
But we also had Akemi return frequently throughout the year to help out in the coffeeshop and visit old friends and Diana return for a visit only three months after she had left.
Margo, who many of you know as a regular customer in our coffeeshop has started to give Yoga classes to a gang from the Bridge since September.

We had wonderful students from Carlow IT, Ciara, Stephen and Aoife , who hopefully learned a lot, which might be of value for their future. Will and Laura completed their TUS programme but are still making a regular appearance as local volunteers. Catherine joined our office team on a permanent basis and Lisa and David came on board with a new TUS programme.

The Adult Education Publishing group produced a beautiful colourful yearbook which was celebrated with a festive book launch in December. The Publication was also sponsored by Kilcullen Development Association which was brought about by Nessa Dunlea and Brendan O’Connell.
But the biggest event of the year must be our week long reunion celebrations, which had been planned for a long time. We had many people travel from afar and it was wonderful to meet so many people. Many of our local friends hosted our visitors in their own homes, which was such a wonderful show of support from the town of Kilcullen. And of course while we had much fun chatting and talking, we also kept ourselves busy in that week with activities. We finished off the mosaic around the round window of our hall and refurbished the sun mosaic by the Bridge, and everybody added their piece in the process.
We finished off the landscaping of our duck pond which later in the year was completed with a new duck house by the land team. And we gave the weeds in the flowerbeds in the garden a real good tackle, hopefully a head start for next year’s garden work! However the nicest part was reminiscing with old photographs and a birthday party with a candle spiral with 21 candles with one lit for each year by a different person while we recalled key events of that year. The Birthday Cake was mighty. Everyone went on a trip to Glendalough on Saturday and we had an amazing disco to finish the week. Thanks again for all who came and made this such a special event.

It was immediately after this week that we said goodbye to last year’s coworkers, who had all extended their stay to make sure they wouldn’t miss the big party. I know their contribution for the last year was much appreciated by everyone and the goodbyes were emotional, especially when it came to the final goodbye for a toy boy  in September.
And of course a big welcome to all of the new coworkers (including the Irish one from Dungarvan) who joined and who continue to help us in keeping the show on the road.
Thank you all.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a light filled New Year
from everyone at The Bridge Community