Welcome to Friends of Camphill India
Camphill India
Excerpts from the guest book of the community written by our volunteers

… I arrived on 7th July 1999, happy and excited to be in India at last…It’s been great to be a pioneer! I think the strongest impression for me has been to see the changes and growth in this community – in the physical landscape and buildings, but most exciting of all, in our special friends. It’s been so rewarding to see people slowly let go of their fear and confusion on arrival and be so transformed. It’s lovely to see such good qualities awakening in people – caring for each other, friendliness, love, a real desire to work, pride in their achievements. Of course, humans cannot always show their positive sides – I have been driven mad by stubbornness on occasion and still have to learn so much more patience. However, I really feel that we are such a special, unique group of people. I enjoyed seeing the surroundings and house improve, watching the rose garden grow, clearing up the workshop building and filling it with life, adding pictures and colour inside the house, seeing the path laid out in the garden and the friends working so hard.

I know there has been a lot of change in me as well. I have learnt a lot, gained confidence and improved my own view of myself. It’s been fun to merge into some aspects of Indian life – wearing Indian dress, bindis, bangles…. It’s so rewarding to explore another culture and try to eke out the best of East and West….

(Helen Lorimer from UK, May 2000, after spending one year in the community as volunteer)

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When I arrived almost 15 months ago, I thought “Hey, Uli, what are you doing here?” It was like a jump into cold water. I had never even thought of doing such work in another country. Everything was new and so amazing for me. But all my worries were gone after a few days. I managed to adjust easily to Antaranga life: getting up early (that’s still hard for me), all the prayers (I never prayed so much in my life), strict timings, washing up (thanks for dish washers at home), garden work (digging pits, levelling, digging pits, levelling, removing roots, etc.), carpentry work (I never thought that this kind of work can be done without proper tools – I learnt a lot there – thank you!) and all the other kind of house maintenance jobs…I want to say that all of you taught me so many things that I will have a very good use for later in my life. I’ll never forget all of you…

(Uli Gams was the first German who did his civil service with us from July 99 to Sept. 2000)
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… It was difficult to say goodbye and leave all of you back in India. This place was my home and you were my friends and family. This was a very important time for me. I learned to be patient, self-confident, selfless, strong, attentive and much more. I experienced what it is like to be a special person and I was glad to see friendship grow between us…my future study will be Biology and I would like to specialise in the field of environment protection. I can see a deep meaning in my being here and doing social work. Because both, environment protection and the work that is done here in Camphill are an attempt to build up a better future and help those who are neglected by a large part of our society. An attempt to become more human and more caring about the environment….

(Volunteer from Belgium in March 2001)

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… 13 months of civil service are over, which seemed to be so long in the beginning, but looking back, passed by pretty fast. Richer by some bruises, scars and experiences, I can say that this year has changed me quite a lot. The first two months, adjusting to life here, were a big struggle. Less time for myself than before, strict timings and hard garden-work were only a few difficulties I faced. But then slowly it changed. Although giving bath, brushing teeth and, in general, living with our special friends were totally new things for me, I began to like caring for others…

The thing I found here was: The Garden! Although I hated the work in the beginning, I could not leave it alone anymore after some time. Planting trees and vegetables, digging pits, carrying stones, making compost and all other things that happen in the garden fascinated me. I could put my energy in the garden, but got energy back as well. To see the plants in the morning while watering the coconut palms was something I liked very much. My chance came when Anantha and Francis were away for two months and I was put in charge of the garden. It worked out well…



(Florian Teller, Germany, did his civil service with us from 2000 to 2001)

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… It felt like a dream coming to a place like this where everyone tries to find his own place rather than letting life just pass by. My dream was not always easy. Many times I had to struggle with myself to be patient. To live with so many strong people under one roof is not always easy. But I managed to become stronger. After one year I feel that my life and my dreams may become one….

(Bettina Morgenstern, Germany, July 2002)

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… On my days off when I returned at night and entered the gate of the Ashram, and when I saw the house, Antaranga, the workshop and the water tower standing there in the dark, I felt very much at home. Everything here is a bit like an island in the chaotic and hectic ocean of Indian. When I say “home”, what does it mean? There is a strong feeling of safety and, maybe even more important, a feeling of belonging. On the other hand there is no home without struggles, without disharmony. There are times when one is fed up with people or tasks and is just very tired, but that’s what life is also about. Not always doing the things you would like to do or not being together with the people you would chose – this was for me very important. That does not mean that my life here was one long struggle. I met people with whom I developed very good friendship even though I had not expected this and I enjoyed my work in the garden very much. Being together with our special friends was a balance to the tiredness or exhaustion. It was the small things that were able to lift you up again, a smile or a gesture. And with the same small things they managed to creep into my memory where they will stay.

What this year means to me, in which way it has changed me, I can’t say. It was definitely a very rich year, very colourful, and I have the feeling it was the best thing that could happen to me….

(Simon Eberl, Germany, did his civil service with us from 2001 to 2002)

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… How can I go away from people who took me for what I am? Who made me feel so much at home? Who showed me what it means to be accepted and loved? Who supported my music and my poems? Who showed me the power of friendship and that it is in giving that we receive? When somebody asked me six months ago, why I came to India, I had to admit that I didn’t know. Now I feel I know the answer: I came to meet everyone in Antaranga and to see the reflection of myself in your eyes. I came to become aware of my soul and maybe to understand a little bit more of what life is about. I need more than words to express my gratitude that I could be part of this big family. How can I leave all of you…

(Caroline Stopp, Germany, volunteer for six months till January 2003)
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… India! Each time I will hear this word, memories of impressions, sounds, smells and tastes will shake me. Of course, I will remember wonderful country sites, long train trips, holy cows, crowded cities, temples, food …. But that will only be a background to the memories of the special time I could share with you in Antaranga and Santvana… Amazing what all could happen in one year. From all the festivals, the opening of Santvana, to sad events – and I was a part of it…. I joined Antaranga when it was full of people. It took me some time to find my own place and to feel needed and useful. But it also gave me time to grow slowly into community life, to take over responsibilities and to feel connected with this place and its people…

(Olaf Praetorius, Germany, did his civil service with us from 2002 to 2003)
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… I have been enriched by experiences, feelings, friendship and love…. Back home they might ask me: “what did you learn there? What do you bring back?” My answer is one word: Humanity. Lots of Humanity. Everything here is real, everything is human, and this is what makes Camphill so special. I will try to find this humanity in Germany and I know I can find it wherever special people are around….

(Christine Decant, Germany, volunteer from 2003 - 2004)
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… Many pictures pass by in front of my eyes and one dominant feeling arises – the feeling of “thankfulness”. I am thankful that I have been led to your place and got the chance to spend some time of my life together with you special people. I am thankful for many wonderful moments in which we laughed, sang or prayed. But I am also thankful for difficult moments, for challenges and struggles and that you gave me the chance to grow on them. …

(Marcus Rust, Germany, did his civil service with us from 2003 to 2004)

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It will probably be a small shock for all who come from a far-away country to work for some time as volunteers with “Friends of Camphill India” – starting with the arrival.
You have hardly left the plane and you’ll fall right into the crowded and colourful life. Heavy suitcases, western clothes and searching-enquiring looks are a definite sign for an Indian “businessman” (that’s what all who make money out of some kind of business like to call themselves), that this new arrival could be an enormous source of income. It won’t take long and your luggage is taken from your hands and loaded into one of the many black-yellow auto rickshaws.

“Stop, stop” one shouts out loudly, “I am being picked up by friends”! One has to battle to get back one’s bags, declaring that one is not willing to pay the Rickshaw-driver and the middleman for their services and can’t give anything to the beggar either, since one hasn’t exchanged money into Rupees yet. Still, the prices appear already dirt-cheap to a “Westerner”.

Six and a half minutes have passed since then, when suddenly a tall blonde person in Indian clothing appears, who quickly tells the people around that they can’t do business here and who then gives us a friendly smile: “ Hello, I am Francis from Friends of Camphill India”.

And really, it is Francis, our Dutch Camphill-mother. She and her Indian husband Anantha are in charge of the community since its beginning five years ago.
Meanwhile we have climbed into the white Jeep and move on bumpy roads in the direction of Bannerghatta Road.

We have hardly noticed that one drives on the left side of the road here; our attention is drawn to the colourful crowds of workmen, schoolchildren, pedestrians on and beside the road and we hold our breath every time the Jeep makes way for or overtakes another vehicle. A “Michael Schumacher-Poster” smiles at us from the left and we ask ourselves whether we are sitting in the wrong film – or rather, how he would manage with these road conditions?

We leave the dust, the noise and the confusion of the city behind us and suddenly take a right turn onto a gravel path, towards what looks from far like a palm forest. A signboard announces: “Friends of Camphill India – a residential community with adults in need of special care”.

We can throw a quick glance at the Ganesha Temple along the path, before stopping between Antaranga, Panchanga and Santvana, the three houses of the community. There is, of course, always excitement when new co-workers arrive. A few of the Friends, like Javeria or Deepak, are sure to come running, so as to be the first ones to greet the newcomers. Right away we are lead to our first meal. All residents sit cross-legged on mats on the floor. We start with singing an Indian prayer (Mantra) and then there is rice with Sambar, a vegetable sauce. Of course, everything is vegetarian. Many Hindus are traditionally vegetarians, and so are we in Camphill.

The meal is followed by the usual washing-up and after an hour of rest all go to the workshops. The co-workers are in charge there with groups of around five friends.
We make our own candles, and produce necklaces, clay figures and candle stands in the pottery and all these and the cards, boxes and picture frames from the paper workshop and the mats from the weavery are later sold at bazaars.

The garden group looks after our own vegetables and fruits, so that we always have something fresh and healthy to eat.

With more activities like Yoga, Community meetings, the daily bath for the Friends and, of course, the cleaning of the houses, our days are filled.

Life in Camphill is not always easy, but it is totally fulfilling and satisfying. On festival days one learns not only about Christianity, but also about Hinduism, and one gets to know the different culture. Words like Puja, Mantra, Shiva or Diwali soon become very familiar.

During the weekly day-off, the City offers surely sufficient possibilities to spend one’s free time, even though Bangalore is not really a tourist centre. One easily meets friendly people who are always interested in a chat and getting to know each other.

Even though the beginning is tough, to say “good-bye” to Camphill will not be easy for anyone. It doesn’t take a full year to become part of this community, to make new friends, to widen one’s horizon and to learn loving many people unconditionally.

(Florian Schaefer, Volunteer from Germany from August 2003 to July 2004)
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…. You were the teachers and friends for whom I was deeply longing and looking for…. You took and respected me for what I am, with all my light and dark sides… you taught me so many skills … you gave me so many possibilities to develop and learn … you helped me to find the right path … my path!

(Franzika Stephan, Germany, volunteer for one year till October 2005)

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… When I look back on my year spent with all of you, I must confess that I cannot imagine not having had the chance to be part of this community. What direction would my life have taken? I feel that it was a matter of destiny that I was allowed to find the path to Bannerghatta. The various amazing people I met during my stay became of utmost importance to me. The inspiration I drew, the experiences I made, the encounters I had, will follow me in my future and will be a sort of guideline for me. The potential of this place was nourishing me; I cannot really grasp what all I learned, but it was definitely a lot and full of meaning for my further life. The interactions with the special friends were so impressive and meaningful to me that I decided to work in the field of curative education….

(Vimalo Passmann, Germany, did his civil service with us from 2004 to 2005)

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Destiny…did bring me to this place, Destiny leads me away.
But all the seeds we planted together in hearts and souls will stay.
Our lives have touched, our destinies mingled, interwoven by the thread of time.
If we hold still, if we carefully listen, we hear whispers of angels divine.
I thank you for the days of light, for laughter and your love, too.
I thank you for the days of darkness, for the struggles through which I grew.
Let us stay connected through the common goal, the ideas we share
If we have communion, our spirits united, the Divine will always be there

(Patricia Putzek, volunteer from Germany, January 2004 to December 2005)
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