Community as Method
Participants’ Mission Statement:
“We have made a commitment to change ourselves by creating a respectful, clean and sober environment, where we will heal our minds, bodies and spirits. We will grow through individual and community challenges, changing our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. We will succeed and take our rightful place in our communities.”
Meeting basic needs:
- a warm, safe, dry bed
- 3 healthy meals
- no drugs or alcohol
- no violence (no verbal abuse)
Without meeting one’s basics needs, it is difficult if not impossible to heal and improve. Attempting to get back on one’s feet while struggling to obtain the very basic necessities of life can be overwhelming, and, in many cases, drive or exasperate existing issues.
An effective program must provide for the basic human needs so that individuals can focus on:
- personal development
By providing a safe community within which to regain dignity and heal from various wounds, nothing is insurmountable if there is a desire, combined with a place that allows for positive change.
That place is Woodwynn Farms
The Woodwynn experience is a massive, positive, healthy pattern-interrupt to participants’ worlds, in as many aspects as we can have come together in one place at one time.
Woodwynn Homefulness Program
‘Key program design elements work together holistically and seamlessly’
Key Design Elements include:
1. Healthy Distance from Downtown: Woodwynn Farms is a 25-minute (approx.) drive from the nearest city – Victoria, BC. Distancing participants from negative day-to-day life triggers (eg. dealers, pimps, familiar people and locations for ‘getting high’) is extremely effective. Simultaneously, the proximity of Woodwynn Farms is close enough for positive individuals to remain supportive in participants’ lives for those participants from the Greater Victoria area. Positive family members and loved ones are able to drive to Woodwynn Farms for Sunday visits and remain supportive during the participant’s journey.
2. Structure and Routine: A life of chaos and disorder is replaced with structure and routine (as outlined below) in both daily schedules and the individual’s environment. This brings on a gradual calming effect for everyone involved with the Homefulness Program.
3. Mindfulness Exercises: As a participant’s personal life starts to unravel, he/she thinks and worries obsessively about past woes and mistakes, current urgent needs and fears about the future. To help counteract this, seven mindfulness exercises are seamlessly woven into the daily routine and are a natural part of daily life on the farm. Participants, staff and volunteers all report benefits from these exercises.
4. Sleep: Sleep deprivation is most common for the street-entrenched. Sleeping rough is cold and wet; sleeping in shelters is loud and chaotic. Personal safety is a 24/7 fear for both men and women. Typically, an individual will experience interrupted sleep during the night, and then try to catch up on sleep during the day. Extended sleep deprivation leads to a variety of mental health issues. At Woodwynn, a warm, safe, dry bed is a deceivingly simple, calming, stabilizing ingredient to the therapeutic process.
5. Healthy Consumption: Street life often includes a disastrous mix of various drugs and alcohol. Extremely unhealthy diets from food banks, shelters and garbage bins exasperate this. (Food banks unfortunately provide an abundance of expired dry goods with Kraft Dinner topping the list). A homeless person commonly drinks 20 – 40 cups of coffee daily. Coffee and sugar as staples exacerbate biochemical dependencies to drugs and alcohol, which is a harsh mix.
At Woodwynn, three nutritious, home-made daily meals include organic produce and meat from the farm. Participants’ diets are superior to 99% of North Americans regular diets. Coffee is gradually limited to two cups a day. Sugar is limited to one ‘sweet treat’ per week, typically dessert with Sunday dinner. These combine for a remarkable return to vitality, over time.
6. Physical Activity: Street life can be largely sedentary. In addition to daily yoga, farm life can be active, outdoors and varied. Lifting, pulling, twisting, turning and pushing various tools, supplies and equipment are a natural part of farm community activities. Strength and stamina return fairly quickly to all participants, regardless of age or physical condition upon arrival.
7. Meaning and Purpose: Street life can reduce an individual to a reality of perceived meaninglessness and purposelessness. Beyond attending to his/her immediate needs, there are little or no positive goals and aspirations. Woodwynn farm life unyieldingly commands meaning and purpose. Every contribution, every day, from every individual matters to the operations of the farm community. And it quickly becomes obvious to the individual that they matter and are valued. New participants are given the mantra, “How can I help?” Farm chores must be done. Laundry and dishes must be done.
When all work together, daily life is quite pleasant and smooth. The primary focal point for meaning and purpose is the dinner table. There is a daily awareness that each person contributed directly or indirectly to the contents of the meal. Negativity is replaced with positive purpose – “We need to get X done today.”
8. Farm Community: While all of the above elements are vital, it is important to note that the isolation and loneliness of street life are the most soul-destroying of all aspects of street life. The individual is surrounded by constant perceived evidence of worthlessness. Educations and careers have not worked out. Healthy relationships with family and friends have mostly been shattered. Hundreds or thousands of people surround them on the streets – and yet they are alone. At Woodwynn, everything is done as ‘community’. We eat and work together. Nobody eats alone – ever. Our mealtime conversations are priceless. We learn more about each other, and from each other, over a hearty meal than countless hours of counseling may discover.
9. Broader Community: Woodwynn Farms has tremendous variety of volunteerism that occurs year-long. Volunteers come from around the world including Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Italy, Denmark. Each contribute to the therapeutic farm operations ranging from two weeks to 14 months. We are also blessed with a steady stream of local volunteers, including Sparks (five year old Girl Guides); elementary, middle, and high schools students; college and university groups; a wide range of church groups and more. Participants are exposed to an extremely broad range of society, in a positive, productive and affirming manner. Typically, our participants become ‘foremen’ of the day and develop interpersonal and leadership qualities.
10. Values: The Woodwynn Homefulness Program places great emphasis on improving the quality of relationships in three key areas: with ourselves, with each other and with Nature. We explore raising the quality of these relationships through giving active meaning to our 11 Core Values:
Dignity Respect Honesty Integrity Honour Loyalty
Compassion Support Accomplishment Celebration Love
Every day, we explore ways to assist remaining true to our values through times of temptation, conflict and adversity. Daily repetition and reinforcement has proved effective. The community setting on Woodwynn Farms has proved an ideal place to test and practice healthy relationships.
11. Hope: When all the above elements come together, the individual’s conversation and outlook transitions to the positive. Planning around relationships, education and vocation become more concrete and realistic. Through the support of many local agencies and educational institutions, it’s evident that the Woodwynn Homefulness Program slowly begins to help participants realize more positive futures for themselves.