Ballytobin welcomes and depends upon volunteers (aged 18 or over) who may join us for both long-term and short-term stays. Ideally a short-term volunteer 'co-worker' would join us for a whole year, although we do at times make an exception and offer a place to a volunteer who is only able to come for a shorter time.
We do offer very short-term volunteering possibilities during the months of June, July and August; this is a time when we need a lot of help in our vegetable and fruit gardens and volunteers aged 18 or over join us for a month to six weeks to help us in the gardens. These volunteers are called 'summer co-workers'.
Joining Ballytobin for an entire year offers you the unique experience of caring (with guidance) for another person, a person with special needs, allowing you the time needed to build a friendship with the person you are caring for, and the time needed to learn how to understand the person's needs. This can be daunting, however you will be guided in this task by long-term co-workers who both live with you, and know and understand the needs of each person they are responsible for. Community life enables each individual to discover and develop his or her unique abilities and potential.
Where would I live?
As voluntary co-workers we live together in large houses, called house communities. These feel like large family homes and you would live in a house community. The group living and working in each house community consists of long-term co-workers (sometimes a couple or a family, sometimes not) and/or employed 'house coordinators' who are responsible for the good-running of the house, and also for the care of the group of people with special needs with whom we live. In some of our house communities there are also employed staff who join us during the day and go home in the evening. In each house there is also a group of short-term co-workers, mostly young people who join us for a year or sometimes longer. Each co-worker has their own bedroom, and these are generally in the house community, but occasionally in one of our 'bakery bedrooms'.
What does a day in Ballytobin look and feel like?
Ballytobin has a strong daily rhythm and this supports both the people we care for, and also ourselves too. On weekdays we eat breakfast together in our house comunities at 08:00, and before this we will have spent some time helping our friends with special needs to get up and get ready for the day. Mealtimes are the main meeting point each day for the house community, and are lively and chatty occasions where we can exchange news and eat good food together.
After breakfast we clear up together and then go in different directions: you might help the friend that you care for to get ready for morning work - we all have jobs to do each morning - or you might start to help prepare lunch, the main meal of the day, or you may go off to help in the bakery or in the garden for excample. In the house community lunch will be cooked, bedrooms cleaned, and other domestic duties
At 12:45 we all go back to our house communities for lunch, which is the main hot meal of the day, and after we have washed-up then it is time for 'rest hour' - a quiet space for each person after lunch. Later in the afternoon at 15:00 it is time to again support your the person with special needs who you help to care for, to get ready for the afternoon, and accompany them to wherever they need to go to. Meanwhile in the house supper will be prepared, laundry done, cleaning too, and there may be meetings also for long-term co-workers and staff.
At 17:45 we return again to our houses for supper which is at 18:00 and enjoy a relaxed meal together, knowing that the day is over, and looking forward to the evening which may include an activity like folk dancing, a concert, play or meeting also.
Co-workers are invited to join community meetings in the evenings, and these are an important part of the life of the community - spaces where we can talk about the life and work of the community, and make some of the decisions that need to be made which support the running of a busy place like Ballytobin. As a co-worker you would be most welcome to join and be a part this important side of community life.
Weekends of course are a little different, since we are based much more in our house communities; the weekends are a time when we can spend time together looking after the house and doing important housework together, but also a space for outings/excursions, whether to town, the beach or for a hike (weather depending). There are often concerts at the weekend held in Ballytobin's splendid community hall, which is called Castalia Hall and these are open to everyone.
Will I have any free time for myself?
Of course, but not much! The main focus of life in any Camphill community is on doing things together; building community together is a never-ending activity, and part of all that we do each day. Each co-worker has one free day each week, and this day is normally fixed and doesn't change. We may of course need to change your free day occasionally if there is a special event or festival, or another co-worker is away. We also aim to give each co-worker a free 'rest hour' each day after lunch or during the afternoon.
Each co-worker can take up to three weeks' holiday during the year that they spend with us (less, if they come for less than a year). Any holiday needs to be organised well in advance with your house community. Christmas: we make a big effort to spend Christmas together in the community, and we create a beautiful Christmas celebration together, but there are some quiet days after Christmas when it may be possible to take some holiday. You will receive some 'holiday money' from the community for each month that you spend in Ballytobin to spend on holidays.
Will I earn a wage in Ballytobin?
As voluntary co-workers in Ballytobin we do not receive a wage or salary. Our aim is to live a life where the needs of each of us are met in a modest way, and we do this by providing money called 'petty cash'. You may take some petty cash for your free day, for example (the guideline being about €40) however if you end up not spending that petty cash then it goes back into the house petty cash box for the rest of the house to use; in this way we actively share money and use it in such a way that there is enough for everyone. It's true that you are then not able to save up money for yourself, but part of joining a Camphill community is shifting one's focus away from financial gain, and towards shared-living and the amazing possibilities that come with working in this unique and special way.
What is special about Ballytobin?
Ballytobin is an exceptionally beautiful place, set in the countryside and surrounded by fields and woods, with hills in the distance. Right now there is snow on the hills. Ballytobin is at at the end of a winding lane, and there you will find three large house communities (there are two more just outside the main community), a little farm, our apple orchards, our large organic vegetable garden, and also our beautiful therapy centre, workshops and our magnificent community hall, Castalia Hall.
Ballytobin is strongly committed to the Anthroposophical foundations of the Camphill movement and to the founding aims of the small group of refugees who, led by Dr. Karl Koenig, fled Austria in 1939 to found what became Camphill, in Scotland. The work we do in Ballytobin is based on a spiritual understanding of the human being, the earth, and the universe. Anthroposophy (literally "the wisdom of the human being") was conceived by Dr. Rudolf Steiner of Austria in the early decades of the 20th century. Anthroposophy has inspired innovations in many areas of life, and has given rise not only to Camphill communities, but to Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and new forms of medicine, therapies and the arts.
Since it was founded in 1979 Ballytobin has made a concerted effort to offer a home to people (and for many years, children) with very special needs, those who maybe found it difficult to find a home elsewhere or whose families were finding it difficult to manage. Over the years, Ballytobin has built up a reputation for 'going the extra mile' and really adapting itself as a community to the needs of the individual in a very particular way, discovering ways in which to live and work with even people with very challenging behaviour or complex disabilities. Many of our co-workers have left Ballytobin and gone on to varied, important and often fascinating jobs within social work, therapeutic work, medicine, and the caring professions.
Ballytobin has a strong and vibrant cultural life, and music and singing are a part of our daily life. We have a weekly concert called the 'Friday Concert' which takes place in Castalia Hall every friday before lunch, and this is an inclusive concert - it is for everyone, and anyone can play in it! We are also lucky enough to host very regular concerts, mostly classical, given by very well-known musicians who come to Ballytobin as part of their tour of Ireland - this is a wonderful thing, imagine being able to walk down your garden path to hear a world-class classical concert?
Camphill has a tradition of celebrating the Christian and seasonal festivals, such as Michaelmas in the Autumn, Christmas in the Winter, Easter in the Spring and St. John's at midsummer - and many other smaller festivals too. In Ballytobin we put a lot of effort into the celebrating of the festivals together as a community, discussing together how we wish to celebrate the next festival, and then organising rehearsals, costumes, food and so on and so forth - they are wonderful life-enhancing events and an important way for our friends with special needs to navigate the year. Above all they are lots of fun, and you would be amazed at what is possible.
What do I need to do if I wish to apply to join Ballytobin for a year or more?
Your first step is to contact the person responsible for all co-worker applications, Mr Gabriel Poynton, at this e-mail address:
you may also use the application forms on this website, on the 'vacancy' pages. Otherwise e-mail Gabriel telling him about yourself, and if you are seriously interested in coming then it would be great if you could send a formal Letter of Motivation and Curriculum Vitae or 'CV'. It is always helpful for us to know for how long you would like to come and when you are able to come also.
If we then embark on the applications process Gabriel will then ask you to send him the names and e-mail addresses of three people who are able to write detailed and objective character references for you. These three people can not be family members or close friends, but should ideally know you in either a professional capacity, or be school teachers (for example).
You will then be asked to fill in a medical declaration form and a health questionnaire, and also provide us with copies of your birth certificate and passprt/identity card, and a recent and up-to-date 'police certificate' from your home country giving details of whether or not you have a criminal record. This police certificate must not be older than 6 months at the time of your arrival in Ballytobin. You will then be asked to fill in a form for the Irish police certificate and email it to Gabriel, and you will then fill in an online Irish Police Vetting Form (this is now obligatory for anyone wishing to come to Ireland to work with people who are vulnerable).
Once we have received your references and discussed your application within the community then we will be in a position to tell you whether we can offer you a place or not as a co-worker in Camphill Community Ballytobin.
It is important to know that we do expect each new co-worker coming to an Irish Camphill community to come with comprehensive medical insurance which will last for the duration of your stay in our community, and cover you for any hospital treatment, visits to the doctor and/or dentist. Healthcare is very expensive in Ireland and the community is not able to fund this for you. You must be able to show proof of your medical insurance before you come to Ballytobin.
It is also essential that you are able to fund your flight home after your stay in Ballytobin, since we are not able to pay this for you. If you are coming from far away it is probably sensible to buy a return ticket before coming to Ballytobin.
It is important to be aware of our strict drugs and alcohol policies before applying to join Ballytobin. Ballytobin is a 'sobre' community meaning that we do not drink alcohol within the community, nor do we wish to have people who are drunk in the community. It creates a difficult atmosphere and a particularly unsupportive environment for the work that we do, caring for very vulnerable people. If you are drunk you are unable to care for another person, therefore we take this very seriously, and ask you to not drink or be drunk within the community, and to understand and respect our reasons for asking this.
Similarly it is forbidden to take any narcotic substances in Ballytobin, including marijuana, and if we discover that you are taking drugs in Ballytobin at any time, we will need to ask you to leave the community.
We hope this has been informative for you and that you might be interested in joining us, and if you have any questions that have not already been answered please do not hesitate to contact Gabriel Poynton at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will do his best to help you.
We look forward to hearing from you.