Page 12 - C.A.L.L. #29 - Winter 2007
P. 12


             Let's  see  what's  going  on  in  some  other  parts  of  the  world.  Help  yourself  to  assorted
             reflections on the subject, beginning with Dona Willoughby's "Is Hosting Work Exchangers
             Worth it?" taken from Communities 134 of Spring 2007, mostly dedicated to just this topic.
             Let's see:

                                    Is Hosting Work Exchangers Worth It?

             Brittany stops by my cabin for a few moments of intimate talk before dinner. (Brittany came here
             at age 27 as a work exchanger, and after six months of living with us and loving our land, decided
             to pursue membership. We're elated that she has chosen us as her family and home community).
             As she and I listen to the melodious birdsong resonating through the rainforest, she gazes out the
             window and asks, "Do you think it is worth it having work exchangers? Wouldn't it be easier to
             just do the work ourselves?"

             It's a valid question. At La'akea, our intentional community on the "Big Island" of Hawaii, we invite
             folks to live and work here in exchange for a place to stay and the chance to share community life.
             Today two work exchangers left, and as a result Brittany feels lighter, like a burden was lifted.

             La'akea was a permaculture demonstration and educational center for 12 years when our group
             purchased the site in 2005. Our five members and four trial members include teachers, healers,
             administrators, facilitators, co-counselors, permaculturists, tropical gardeners, carpenters, coconut
             palm-climbers, and long-term communitarians. We embrace sustainability in our relationships and
             in our interactions with the Earth, and attempt to produce most of our food on the land. Although
             the tasks necessary to grow food and keep our home and retreat center functioning are immense,
             our lives flow with nature and with each other. Life is abundant and good! Why then, do we invite
             people we don't know to live here”?

             It  began when,  shortly after  our  arrival,  various  people began  asking  that  they  live with  us in
             exchange  for  labor,  and  we  agreed.  While  we  called  these  folks  "work  exchangers,"  we  soon
             realized they were much more than that. We are such a small and intimate group that even short-
             term residents become woven into the fabric of our community and our individual lives. They not
             only work alongside us, but participate in our heartshare meetings and morning check-ins, cook
             with us, eat with us, play with us, and sometimes even bathe with us. We want to support them
             and we want them to support us in return. Actually, I would like more than that: I would like to
             open  my  heart  to  them  and  love  them.  I  prefer  that  people  who  live  here  become  long-term
             friends, extended community members, or even core community members.

             These temporary residents come from all walks of life. They are of varied ages (more younger than
             older),  and  are  of  varied  ethnic,  educational,  and  socio-economic  backgrounds.  They  find  us  in
             assorted  ways:  from  our  exhibit  at  a  local  Earth  Day  celebration,  the  WWOOFER  catalog
             ("Worldwide  Workers  on  Organic  Farms"),  our  larger  Network  for  New Culture  community,  our
             website, or by word of mouth in our local community here on the Big Island. Some arrive penniless
             and  with  no  transportation.  Most  have  never  lived  off  the  grid  or  lived  in  an  intentional

             …At the same time, hosting work exchangers has sometimes burdened us with additional work
             and emotional turmoil, especially when we attract people who don’t share our values of openness,
             realness, and transparency in communication. We have learned to understand and conserve our
             own resources of emotional energy. We cannot be available to minister to the emotional needs of
             work  exchangers  having  difficulties,  for  example,  when  our  own  energies  are  depleted.  The
             delicate  balance  of  keeping  ourselves  nourished  while  nourishing  others  is  not  easy.  In  a
             community  as  intimate  as  ours,  maintaining  this  energy  balance  is  both  a  personal  and  a
             community challenge.

             Reprinted by permission of the author

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