Volunteer to Support People with Developmental Disabilities

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-Multi-Country Locations: North America Region
Canada: Vancouver, Victoria
United States: Minnesota, New York, Philadelphia and 2 other cities


Camphill is an international movement of intentional communities designed to meet the needs of children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities through a combination of community life, the arts and work on the land. In a time where many are experiencing a crisis of spirit and search for meaning, Camphill offers a life of celebration, service, and community building in which all participants flourish. Camphill, founded in Scotland in 1939 by humanitarian physician, Dr Karl Koenig, is based on anthroposhophy. The Camphill approach honors the spiritual integrity of every human being, regardless of ability or circumstances, and recognizes the individual's need and right to lead a full life that includes material, emotional, social and spiritual needs.

The experience offered in Camphill is varied and can include: supporting individuals with disabilities in the home, at work on the farm, garden or in one of the various craft workshops, such as weaving, pottery, stained glass, woodworking, candle-making, bookbinding or bakery; joining a group of people on field trips; cooking wholesome food for your household community with a small group of people; enjoying evening activities with others; and creating and celebrating community seasonal festivals together.

There are ten Camphill communities in North America, generally in rural settings. Located in NEW YORK, PENNSYLVANIA, CALIFORNIA, MINNESOTA, VERMONT, VANCOUVER AND ONTARIO, CANADA, these communities are specialized according to the age group of the people they serve because the developmental needs of children, young adults, and mature adults differ and, thus, the therapeutic approaches for people with disabilities differ according to their age. "Curative education" is the name of the Camphill specialty for unfolding the potentialities of children with developmental disabilities, whereas young adults with such disabilities are engaged in a mutual process of "youth guidance," and mature adults participate in a full life through the practice of "social therapy."

Living and working together - sharing life - with people of all ages and abilities as well as those who have limitations, is both challenging and rewarding. Becoming involved in the ongoing process of community-building and meeting and helping to solve the challenges that arise, provide ample opportunity for learning and growth. Coworkers live in Camphill as full-time volunteers. They do not receive a salary in the usual sense. Each person works to benefit the others in the community and in turn their living needs are supported. This includes full room and board, medical insurance (immediately or after three months, depending on the community), vacation time and a modest stipend for personal needs. The children of long-term co-workers generally have access to Waldorf education if there is a Waldorf School nearby.


Comments from one of our volunteers, Michael Murphy, AmeriCorps volunteer at Camphill Communities California

It was a cold snowy morning on January fifth 2004. I had let both Christmas and New Years slip by without much notice. I was ripe with anticipation, excitement, and fear awaiting my transplant from normal Ohio into a new life in Santa Cruz California. I was departing to begin my year with Camphill Communities California, an AmeriCorps volunteer program. I would be living and working with developmentally disabled adults. Prior to this I had never had any personal experience with developmentally disabled people.

I was a recent graduate of college; floating along looking and waiting for my next move in life. A teaching program in Prague had looked promising but I was in need of something more, more helpful, more life changing, more life expanding. I wanted to use my degree to help myself grow and change. I also wanted to help, change, and influence the lives of others.

This is where AmeriCorps and Camphill Communities came into play. Camphill is a community steeped in culture, spiritual and environmental awareness; a place with the need to continue to better those who work in and with the community and the world around them. A small but powerful group whose energy reaches all levels of humanity to the far reaches of the globe.

My first encounter was with Beaver Run, a boarding school run by Camphill outside of Philadelphia. A community made up of several houses each containing 'House Families' and 'Friends'. The house parents were these to assist the friends, who ranged from borderline to severely disabled, in school and daily activities, ranging from washing dishes and schoolwork to weaving and woodworking. It was a different world from a clinical facility. It was full of life and love, the positive energy of all that lived there created this thick hum in the air. It was then that I realized that this was something that I wanted to pursue.

Within my first week at Camphill my first experience was realizing the affect that my presence made on the community of about thirty, how my actions had a ripple affect throughout the community. The other refreshing concept was the loss of 'me' that so much of society is built on, it was no longer specifically about me but about the friends and the other co-workers. How what I did and when I did it could benefit the community as a whole. What the community could get from me and in turn what I could gain from them. I think that the most amazing aspect of the experience is the loss of preconceived ideas and facades that so many of us have and have become accustomed to. No matter your physical or skill level there is a place at Camphill. It truly is quite amazing. At a time when society seems to blur between the importance of individuality and conformity, Camphill is a sanctuary allowing everyone to live as is, only to conform to the pursuit and practice of that is good for the mind, body, spirit, and the world around us.

I have been submerged in a culture of genuine acceptance, love, caring, thought, idea, and action. It is mentally and physically stunning and awesome.

Program Duration

Multiple Year, 1-2 Year


rolling admissions


Applicants need to be physically healthy and have mental and emotional stamina. To be a coworker in Camphill, you need flexibility, enthusiasm and interest in being with people in relationships of mutual respect.

Generally, applicants should be at least 20 years old. You must be able to speak English fluently. We desire our coworkers to be mature, responsible, and personally flexible. There is no minimum education level, and you do not need to have any previous experience working with individuals with disabilities.


  • English

Cost Includes:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • In-country orientation/Training
  • In-country staff support

Program Fees Include:

All volunteers are responsible for all travel costs to and from the community.


Living Stipend + Benefits

Experience Required


    Applicants should have previous experience supporting people with developmental disabilities.

Volunteer Types

  • Agriculture
  • Arts
  • Childcare/children
  • Community Development
  • Community Health
  • Cooking
  • Disability Issues
  • Education
  • Elderly
  • Festivals
  • Food
  • Gardening
  • Handicapped
  • Health
  • Health Care
  • Health Education
  • Nursing
  • Organic Farming
  • Secondary Education
  • Seniors
  • Teaching

Typical Volunteer

Camphill communities are "staffed" by people who choose the tasks and the lifestyle for a short time or for a life time. Called "co-workers" to acknowledge their role of working alongside people with disabilities or with other social needs, these staff are volunteers who make a commitment to the Camphill work. Although financial arrangements vary from country to country and community to community, Camphill co-workers are not jobholders in the traditional sense. They are people who have decided to live, however briefly, in a world where the dominant values are learning from others, practicing awareness, and appreciating and protecting the natural world.

Age Range


This Program is open to

Worldwide Participants. This Program is also open to Families, Couples and Individuals.

Typical Living Arrangements

  • Group living

Participants Travel


Typically Participants Work

Independently or in Groups of 2-200

Application Process Involves

  • In-Person Interview when Feasible
  • Letters of Reference
  • Phone/Video Interview
  • Physical Exam/Health Records
  • Written Application

Typically The Application Process Time is

3 months

Post Services Include

  • Alumni Network