Many times I’ve wondered about what my daughter’s future will hold for her when she exits the school system. In Australia there are post school programs for people with disabilities which are … okay… kinda … but I feel like there is much more potential for her (and other people with different abilities) to have lasting meaningful friendships and quality of life through being included in motivating/enjoyable activities (for example: anything tactile, ripping and tearing things, playing music/singing, gardening, sensory outdoor stuff) while being in a more “natural community” environment.
Though I know many outstanding and totally amazing and inspiring people who are doing great things for People who are differently-abled, my experience in Australia has shown me (from word of mouth and visiting different centres – sometimes anonymously and unexpectedly) that there is a “culture” around Disability Services that is somewhat unaccountable and … the best word i can find is “patronising” and “unsafe”. One of my early youtube videos details some of what i have experienced…
What I desire for my daughter (and myself) is to be part of a Living/ Vital Community where (and there’s some human psychology coming) members/ people are fully Engaged and Accountable (for their behaviour) because they are not in a “Disability Centre”. I see that in “Disability Centres” there is a different “agreed value system” or “culture” than in “a normal job” or the mainstream culture of our society (you’ll maybe just have to get a cup of tea and watch the video where I go on about it).
Presently, in “Disability” centres and homes (in Australia at least) people/staff think their actions are not “noticed” – and maybe I’ve just been exposed to the “scammers”… i don’t know and I apologise to any of you beautiful amazing Support Workers who maybe offended… you know I’m not talking about You – but you have probably seen/experienced these kind of people that I’m talking about… the one’s who steal food from the pantry of the Disability Share House, the group of staff that just sit in the office gas bagging instead of attending to “clients”… I hate that word…).
Philosophy (yes I studied online at Harvard… or was it Yale) shows that when people feel they are not being “watched”… their actions are different/ less accountable. Even a painting of a set of eyes as opposed to a landscape/floral picture above a “by donation” coffee/tea station affects us on a subtle level as to make a marked difference in our behaviour (i.e. whether we put that 50c in the donation jar or not). I am leading up to a slightly different topic here about parents being able to access CCTV of their family member which belongs more in the Share-Home Arrangements aspect i want to see for my daughter so I will continue in THIS section. Suffice to say here – that when there are more “mainstream” people around… parents… volunteers… more Natural Community… there is a shift and Improvement, I believe, in people/staff’s accountability and the feeling-environment in general.
Back to Farming…
I want to be part of my daughter’s life – but not have the full-time or SOLE responsibility of taking care of her. I want to know she is safe. I want to know she has Real friends and i want to have involvement with her activities also. I want to know she is included in an environment where people genuinely care and give from their heart to our “kids” (who will always be “kids” to us…) I want to know she is involved in activities not dictated by the mundane culture of our times – that attempts to fit People with Disabilities (PWD) into “mainstream” (or factory) jobs (like putting together headsets for Jetstar) and having KPI’s to meet etc etc.
I believe that people with special needs are a GIFT to us… and offer us “normals” the opportunity/ability to step out of our mundane mindset/greed programming and actually live for/from Being Of Service to others… and harking on my experience in the Philippines… I believe this is how God truly meant for us to live. When we provide for others… God can provide miracles for us. (Sorry to any Atheists out there… I will try and apply this to the “Law of Attraction” at some stage and maybe go into some philosophical discussion over coffee/local wine when you come to visit us 😉 ).
Farming has traditionally been a community and cultural activity worldwide… farming sustained us… FOOD brings us together. Farming provides Natural Community in that people are just hanging out together Doing Shit. Tasks are varied and quite numerous. There are different skill levels, sensory and tactile experiences to be had. It’s something we “gotta do” anyway… It’s not really a high-pressure job – so why NOT involve people with different abilities? I began a project back in Australia outlining how refugees, people with disabilities and Youth could create complimentary benefits through farming together. It just makes SENSE. It’s like “natural family” and inclusiveness and has been that way since (human) time began. I made a report the project which i can email on request the PDF as it’s too large to upload here (12.5MB). I did not have the physical support for my daughter to really be able to spend the time leasing and getting the grants required … so it didn’t “take off” but, it outlines the social aims and vision and what can be achieved at a small scale.
When i was in Batam last year, I met Reski Achyana (https://www.facebook.com/rezki.achyana?fref=search) one of 5 or 6 Youth Ambassadors for Indonesia who with his sister runs a Disability School in Batam. They have already started working on a post-school farming project where kids help catch carp in the muddy water carp farms (SEE VIDEO/PHOTOS) and also process banana into banana chips and package and sell at their local market.
Sidenote: I feel that at this point it’s relevant to bring up the socio-cultural differences here between Asia and Western countries like Australia. PEOPLE make the difference and here, people aren’t just DOING A JOB… They are LIVING LIFE with these kids. No one I’ve met working with special needs kids here is doing it for the “money”… Also there are SO MANY people in Asia generally. There are less “unsafe situations” where people are “left alone” with someone who is “vulnerable”… because everywhere you turn… there is usually someone there 😉 (I love this about Asia by-the-way). It probably takes Westerners a little getting-used-to but for me, there’s a feeling of broader community, family, and dare-i-say-it – safety in numbers… So, I envisage something similar to be the basis of a “community business” our kids can be part of… where they’re not paid miniscule wages… but “profits” go into providing better services like a community bus/subsidised transport for example… or a swimming pool/hydrotherapy pool… or additional care staff etc and of course GOOD FOOD!
Sjakitarius School in Ubud where we also have visited has a cafe/warung and handicraft shop attached – at the front of the school – where the public can visit and special needs kids/teenagers can practice hospitality skills. I like it because it’s mainstream… it’s public and it’s in-your-face no-apologies and I had the experience of being able to enter the world of these kids – just how they are… not somewhere they are “trained” to be like us. There are staff in the kitchen of course and the cafe provides quite delicious cuisine (as you can see in this video) – i think the difference is the spirit of the people… So I can see the Warung/Cafe and community-business aspects of Inclusive Community crossing over here (there are many overlaps).
To integrate the community farming concept with the Local School aspect, I see that community farming activities are part of the “curriculum” or daily activities run by the school. And school staff/carers help supervise the farming activities as well as parents on a roster-basis… The Farm and production itself has it’s own workforce of local farmers, interns and guests, workshop participants and resident artists/co-contributors and perhaps separate family plots… Community/ Collaborative farming is just one area of activities for our kids. See Here for more details about the Local School Aspect and example of a daily schedule of activities.
In summary, I see Community Agriculture/ Shared/Commuity Farming as an intrinsic/vital activity in Inclusive Community and something like a backbone within and from which carers, people with different abilities and the broader community of residents, parents and visitors can create fun and engaging experiences, share knowledge and pass-times that aren’t “work” but the basis for life in general and sharing with our “kids”.
Next… Let there be Musik!!!!!