Pennsylvania Trip Wraps the Performance Season

from Malva: All within a week, Benjamin’s choir had a wonderful concert of Renaissance masterworks, then he played violin in a sensory-friendly concert with Colorado Symphony musicians (they’re following our lead and starting their own series in the Denver metro area) and then – we flew to Pennsylvania!

We have a family friend in Camp Hill Village, Kimberton, a wonderful grouping of small houses scattered across the estate of an old mansion that serves as both headquarters and living space. Camp Hill Villages (in various locations all over the world) are for people with lifelong disabilities (such as autism, Down Syndrome, etc.) who live there with caregivers, some of whom are families with children of their own (not disabled), plus co-workers who are often college-student age and perhaps visiting from other countries. These “villages” provide a situation where special people can do real work, in accordance with their capacities.

Examples we observed in Camp Hill Kimberton:
* gardening to produce lovely teas, herbs, and other foodstuffs to sell at the local Whole Foods as well as to feed the community;
* an “on location” café that serves delicious meals to the public
* handcrafts such as weaving, knitting, wool-felting, pottery, wood-work, creating things which might be featured at a Waldorf School store or online (Etsy.com), or sold at a gala evening;
* farm animals are tended carefully (the fresh, raw milk I drank shortly after the cows had been milked tasted heavenly), fields are cared for biodynamically and so everything is organic and free of commercial fertilizers or pesticides, the greenhouses are full of healthy plants…

We loved exploring the property, hearing birds that Benjamin recognized from his bird books/recordings, ditto with frogs croaking in swampy spots, and sheltering from frequent rain-showers under the spreading canopy of tall deciduous trees, so different from home.

Benjamin was the special guest there, giving his autism presentation at nearby Beaver Run Special School which coordinates with Camp Hill Kimberton: this Waldorf school has teachers and workers who live with special-needs students in a community of small houses. Rainbow Hall, where Benjamin spoke, is a beautiful performance and community space, as you can see below. A third community, Beaver Farm, cares for special-needs students of “transition” age – that time between school graduation and legal adulthood. We walked less than a mile from Camp Hill to visit this rolling hillside “village” with its mix of lovely old and new buildings, its fields and farm animals, workshops and community spaces.

All three communities are connected, and seasonal festivals are celebrated together. This focus on community nurtures a spiritual and artistic life for all, with regular meetings, musical events, dances, visiting artists, and such. Being so close to Philadelphia, they often have top-notch student performers coming from the Curtis Institute of Music and such. They also host many volunteer groups who come to assist with planting, harvesting, and so forth. We loved getting to know the people, and Benjamin performed his poi-swing routine during the community’s Monday morning meeting – thereby inspiring another young man with autism who also twirls and spins things.

Then, off we went to explore historical sites for a few days:  nearby Valley Forge, where George Washington overwintered with his ragged continental army…

…Hopewell Furnace where an entire village centered around cast-iron production…

…Gettysburg where the bloodiest battle of the civil war was fought…

…Philadelphia where we saw Independence Hall (the seat of the USA’s first government)…

…looked around Benjamin Franklin’s old neighborhood…

…and spent an afternoon at the Barnes Foundation taking in countless Renoirs and other impressionist paintings – a stunning collection!

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