Campaigning for people with learning disabilities to live as they choose
A remarkable photodocumentary for the Washington Post by Mary Gelman of life in Camphill Svetlana, Russia a country where people with disabilities find it hard to get acceptance let alone inclusion
Dr Miriam Snellgrove of Bristol University on how rapid social and political change has forced Camphill communities to adapt. She asks:
- Who matters most, the community or the individual?
- Why does the Camphill narrative need to be stable?
- What are the essential elements that must be preserved?
- Does embracing change threaten the Camphill ethos?
- Is Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner's guiding philosophy, necessary for the survival of Camphill?
Nobody quarrels with the ideal of inclusion. But, like all ideologies, it needs to be leavened with realism and humanity. Like most ideologues those who advocate inclusion at any cost regard this as limp-wristed weakness. Read the Blog
Camphill began in Scotland at the outbreak of WWII. And in many ways Scotland remains the spiritual home of core Camphill community values: the belief that people sharing their life, living and working together in dignity and equality, is the best way of supporting those who need it most. It also where the movement is strongest in the UK and where it finds the greatest political support. The SNP is a strong supporter of Camphill communities recognising its unique contribution to the choice of care for people with learning disabilities.
Karl König was an Austrian pediatrician and educator who fled the Nazi annexation of his country and settled in Aberdeen, Scotland, where in 1939 with a group of young physicians, artists and care givers he founded the first Camphill community for children with an intellectual disability. It was an act of astounding non-conformism and courage in an age when people with intellectual impairments were classed as human beings of lesser worth who were often institutionalised.
True quality of life means combining individual choice and fulfilment with social belonging and responsibility. Camphill Foundation supports an ever-changing variety of projects which enhance and enrich the lives of vulnerable people with learning disabilities and extra support needs. Help to enable new initiatives to start, create or improve facilities and develop vital opportunities for creative and fulfilling work.
When you donate money to a charity, you like to know it is being well spent. Your donation, whether large or small, will support much more than a single project. Camphill Foundation frequently provides assistance in the form of loans, and when the money is repaid it becomes available to help with another project, then another, and so on. This unique model gives real meaning to the expression ‘ seed money’ The most difficult stage usually occurs in the early stages, after the initial idea has been turned into a plan but before that plan is put into action. That's where we come in, helping to get the project off the ground.
Young volunteers at the Camphill Academy, USA talk about how living with and supporting people who have a learning disability is not a service but a mutually respectful relationship
Portrait of a Camphill Village. Full length film 56mins
Rudolf Steiner was a polymath, a kind of philosophical Jack of All Trades. He founded Steiner Waldorf Schools. He was the impulse behind the principles of biodynamic farming. Steiner’s ideas about humanity, beauty, nature and spirituality coalesced into what has become the worldwide Camphill movement. He called his worldview Anthroposophy or the wisdom of man. He remains a controversial figure. But in an increasingly material world where people yearn for simple truths his ideas remain a powerful driving force.
The unique insights and research of Rudolf Steiner into subjects such as education, medicine and agriculture have long been a source of inspiration and also controversy. Since his death in 1925, Steiner's vision has grown in relevance and urgency, The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner, from the British film-maker Jonathan Stedall, aims to take the story to a wider audience. For more information see http://rudolfsteinerfilm.com
Karl König, a Jewish paediatrician, left Austria with a group of fellow-refugees in from Nazism in 1939. He founded the first Camphill community in Scotland. König was a complex, thoughtful, occasionally irate and passionate advocate for people with disabilities. Born with slightly crippled feet he was gifted with a quick, precocious mind. Inspired by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, König became the driving force behind the expansion of Camphill throughout the world. He died in 1966. Karl König archive
In 1919 Rudolf Steiner opened his first Waldorf school in Stuttgart. There are now over 1000 Waldorf Steiner schools in over 60 countries. Waldorf schools aim to produce rounded human beings. Testing plays a small part in the curriculum. Instead they emphasise imagination and thinking for yourself in a holistic environment as motivators. Watch Why Waldorf
Waldorf Steiner school students all over the world are much like any other student: some like school, some don’t, some sail through, some struggle. They learn big things and small things.
Later when they leave some become ‘famous’ - most don’t. But nearly all say they have been well prepared for life.
Here’s a list of famous alumni and parents and a few more useful links