Lattitude Global Volunteering – North America has now partnered with a network of rural communities in the Eastern US. We are now offering volunteer placements for those inspired to live and work with people with disabilities, starting in January/February 2020.
“The communities are all located on gorgeous, bucolic farms and schools all within a two hour train ride from New York City and other cities on the Eastern Seaboard,” reports Cam Sylvester, Lattitude’s Director for North America who visited the communities in June 2019.
According to Cam, volunteers are all housed in their own bedrooms in large, modern homes located on the properties. Each house serves as the living hub for a family, a half dozen or so volunteers and a similar number of residents with disabilities.
“I was fortunate enough to stay in two of these houses, one on a farm north of New York City, and another on a school estate, just outside of Philadelphia” Cam says. “The sense of community around the table at meals was inspiring. I was able to feel like I was part a large family, cleaning up and doing my own dishes, or sitting around the living room chatting about the days events.”
On the farms, volunteers spend the mornings with the residents and other community members doing a wide range of activities such as milking cows, growing organic gardens, building rough timber, or managing the community stores. After lunch, everyone takes a 2-hour break before going back to work, this time is spent participating in lessons on pottery, movement, woodworking, speech, or weaving.
In the school, volunteers follow a similar schedule, though the time is spent supporting younger residents with disabilities in their K-12 curriculum.
Since both the farms and schools are considered educational programs, in addition to one day off per week, the volunteers get time off at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and 4 weeks in the Northern Hemisphere summer months. All volunteers receive a stipend of $225 US per month (subject to change).
Placements are for 12 months, but in some cases 6 months may be possible. When Cam visited the camps, there were volunteers from Ghana, the UK, Colombia, Japan, Korea, and Australia.
“These opportunities are precisely they type of transformative, long-term Gap Year programs that volunteers benefit the most from” Cam says. “They aren’t a quick hit of ‘voluntourism.’ But they aren’t for everyone, of course.”
“Living in community, even in such an idyllic situation such as these farms and schools, is not a walk in the park. Like with all families, you have to learn to live with others. But the payoff can be huge in terms of personal growth, which is what a great Gap Year is all about. And the range of activities to get involved in, especially on the farms, is quite amazing.”
Cam spoke with a number of volunteers at the communities, all of whom raved about their experiences. “They had time to travel on their days off and scratch the sight-seeing itch. But it was the time in their new community that most impacted them. One of the volunteers I met at the gym playing basketball told me that before he came to the farm, he felt he was always wearing a mask. ‘But the residents don’t let you get away with that,’ he told me. ‘You have to learn to be comfortable with yourself. And now I am. And that is the greatest gift anyone can give me.’”
There are only 4 seats are available starting, tentatively, in January or February 2020. If you are interested, please contact your local Lattitude office immediately to see if they are still available.