The Camphill movement is an initiative for social change dedicated to creating intentional communities where the values of service, sharing, spiritual nourishment, and a commitment to recognizing each individual’s gifts and contributions offer a model of renewal for the wider society. Drawing their inspiration from the principles of anthroposophy, Camphill communities value the profound significance of each human being and practice an art of daily living, mindful of man’s responsibility to the earth, that creates transformative living experiences for children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities.
The first Camphill community was founded in Scotland by a group of refugees from Nazi Germany led by Dr. Karl Konig, an Austrian pediatrician inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy of anthroposophy. Konig described Camphill’s mission as “defending the image of man wherever it is most threatened.” This group, mindful of the treatment of those with mental handicaps in Nazi Germany, created a completely new way of working with children with special needs, in which the individuality and potential of even profoundly challenged children was developed. As word spread of their approach, the group was offered more spacious quarters at the Camphill House estate outside of Aberdeen, from which the movement takes its name. Almost eighty years later, the proven work of Camphill continues in over 100 communities and 15 countries around the world.
Camphill communities bring together coworkers (long and short-term service volunteers) and individuals with developmental disabilities in therapeutic communities that foster mutual respect and human dignity. Coworkers treat their work as a way of life, not as a job or career. In practice this means sharing living spaces, work activities, and leisure time with the people in the communities who have special needs. Community coworkers do not draw a salary or define their work in 9 to 5 terms, but have their family needs met from shared community resources. The absence of shift workers helps create a holistic therapeutic environment in which those with and without disabilities are equally valued contributors to the life of the community.
Camphill communities serve individuals with special needs across the life cycle. In North America, there is one school for children ages 5-18, three youth guidance communities for young adults age 18-30, 9 farming and craft work communities for adults, 2 urban initiatives also for adults, and an elder care community run on Camphill principles for people with and without disabilities. There are currently communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, California, Ontario, and Vancouver.
There are over 100 Camphill communities worldwide. You can visit a Camphill community in Austria, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Latvia, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States of America, Vietnam and Wales as well as Camphill inspired communities in India, Israel and Japan.