Changing diapers, bathing people, cooking and doing laundry for at least six people, does that sound like the life of someone who just graduated from high school? Maybe not. But that is exactly what I am doing now. I am one of two ARSP volunteers at Innisfree Village.
Innisfree Village is a life sharing community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia. At Innisfree, people with intellectual disabilities and volunteers live and work together. Every resident is called a coworker. During the week, everyone works at different workstations, for example the farm, herb and veggie garden, wood shop, kitchen and weavery. All products are either used at Innisfree or sold in local shops.
As a volunteer, I work with “my” coworkers at different workstations, but most importantly, I live together with them. I am currently living in Amity, one of 10 houses, together with two other volunteers and five coworkers, Linda, Robert, Andy, Chris and Heyward. Nearly all of them belong to the older generation, so they need a certain amount of physical care.
Part of our morning routine is waking everyone up, taking care that everyone dresses accordingly for the weather, while some need help with a bath or shower. We prepare breakfast, making sure that everyone takes their medicine at the right time and that everyone brushes their teeth. By nine o’clock, everyone heads out to their workstations. At 12:30pm, the whole village meets again to have lunch in the Community Center. Lunch is always freshly prepared by the kitchen workstation. An hour later, everyone is going back to work. Everyone comes back to the house at 3pm, which is the time when we prepare a small snack. After everyone has eaten their snack, our coworkers have some downtime, where they can just relax, read or draw something. During this time, we do laundry and try to keep the coworkers busy so that they enjoy their afternoon (some coworkers can be quite needy for attention ☺). It does not take long and then it is time to prepare dinner and medications. After dinner, some of our coworkers require help with changing into their pajamas. Most days, we all watch a movie together before bedtime at 8pm.
All this might seem a lot for someone who has never undertaken such a large amount of responsibility. However, when you are at Innisfree you start living in an environment where everything seems possible and everyone supports each other. Within a short amount of time you start bonding with the people living in your house, and even though everybody has their challenges, you become a group that trusts one another. Trust is the most valuable thing at Innisfree. Without trust, none of our work would be possible. How could you bathe someone, if the person does not trust you? How could you go grocery shopping, if no one trusts that you are responsible with money? Here at Innisfree you have this atmosphere of trust and support.
I am grateful for the opportunity to live in such a loving and supporting community.
Svenja – ARSP – volunteer