House of Peace
By Matthew Perry
In 1727, Reverend Nathaniel
Rogers built a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts, to which he welcomed
victims of religious persecution from Europe, itinerant farmers,
and other people in need of refuge. On
October 27, 1990, Carrie Schuchardt, her husband John, and the hope-filled
circle of initial friends and supporters christened this same house
the House of Peace and began welcoming a new wave of guests, firstamong
them two young Vietnamese boat refugees. More recently, on August
30, 2001, the House of Peace welcomed eight new guestsa mother,
father, and six childrenfrom Afghanistan. Twelve days later,
the tragic story of their homeland took center stage asone of the
worst tragedies in the history of their new home unfolded.
Today, Nathaniel Rogers historic house has never been a stronger
center of refugeand healing, as Carrie and John and the House of
Peace community continue to welcome orphans, refugees, and others
in need of a new start from around the world. The two refugee boys
who crossed their threshold early in the history of the House of
Peace are now both practicing physicians. The Afghan family of eight
has settled in the Ipswich community: the two parents with jobs,
the three younger children attending the Cape Ann Waldorf School
in nearby Beverly, and the three older children all enrolled in
high school or community college. They have found the people of
Ipswich to be accepting and supportive. They have not suffered any
serious prejudice or indignities since September 11, 2001.
These stories represent the
ideals of the House of Peace perfectly: continuity with the past,
acceptance, tolerance, the physical housing and spiritual healing
of people who have suffered from war and misfortune, fulfillment
of human potential, community involvement, and, of course, peace.
The House is known nationally and internationally for its successful
realization of these ideals. The story of how it has remained so
successful can serve as an example for any person or organization
devoted to peace and understanding between peoples.
First, it takes a coherent
vision. For the Schuchardts and the House of Peace, this vision
has its roots in the philosophical principles of Anthroposophy and
the healing community model of Camphill. Anthroposophy, the philosophical
system originated by Rudolf Steiner, lends its ideas of a three-fold
social order in which people pursue activities in the spiritual/cultural,
social, and economic realms and come together as communities around
goal of the House of Peace, as described by Carrie, is to translate
these principles into a living reality in the world. In other
words, when an individual comes to them from war-torn Bosnia, for
example, that person will be provided with the physical resources
they need to survivefood, clothing, shelter; assistance in
acquiring a job, better education, health care, and language skills;
and the emotional and psychological resources he or she needs to
recover a sense of self, safety, and belonging. The House of Peace,
as do all Anthroposophical endeavors, attends to the person as a
wholemind, body, and spirit.
The Camphill model is also
central to the efficacy of the House of Peace. Camphill Communities
exist internationally, and work to elevate the developmentally disabled
who society has taught to focus on the dis- and not their abilities.
The idea is that social renewal is only achievable by embracing
what every individual has to offer and recognizing the innate need
and desire we all have to give of ourselves, i.e. people in need
of special care have the right also to give special care.
At the House of Peace, this
guiding principle is made real in the persons of the hospitality
crew who are so central to the welcoming and restoration of their
guests from overseas. These individuals, often severely functionally
limited, are brilliant in the field of making people feel at home
and binding people together. They help people who are not used to
being helped, they make people laugh who are not used to laughing,
and they engage people who are not used to being themselves. We
dont often turn to the blind, the mentally retarded, or others
who our culture deems abnormal when we need something
special. The House of Peace does, and the curative community it
has fostered is all the stronger for it.
The House of Peace applies
its core principles in other arenas. It advocates for peace and
justice on many fronts. Last winter, it organized a seven-week Walk
for a New Spring across the state of Massachusetts, ending in a
peace rally on the steps of the Capitol building in Boston on the
first day of Spring. It has been regularly working with Families
for Peaceful Tomorrow since September 11, seeking non-violent responses
to the terrorist attacks. Carrie and John have participated in vigils,
lectures, meetings, and advocacy walks nationally and internationally,
as far away as Japan. The House has hosted a variety of gatherings
in the restored historic barn on its grounds. It has hosted several
individuals from around the country in its retreat cabin, a replica
of the one Henry David Thoreau used while gathering experiences
for Walden. They are always working for the humane treatment of
prisoners, the fair treatment of INS detainees, and the abolition
of nuclear weapons. Their work never stops.
The House of Peace is indeed
a busy place, primarily because its founders, staff, partner organizations,
and community supporters treat no problem or person abstractly.
Everything and everyone is tangible, and can be acted upon tangibly
in turn. The community of Ipswich and the larger community of peace
advocates understand this. Therefore, many of the donations that
make the non-profit work of the House possible are tangible and
targeted at particular needs. Contributions are often creative in
natureinterest-free loans, in-kind gifts, volunteer labor.
The House of Peace receives no corporate funds, it does not charge
any of its guests for the services they receive, and no one who
works there receives a salary. It remains free to pursue its goals
as it defines them.
Perhaps the image that best
summarizes the value and family nature of the Houses work
unfolded this June 8, when Carrie
and John held a high school graduation party for their daughter.
This celebration doubled as a reunion of many of the guests who
have been assisted by the House over its twelve years. Over eighty
people came, representing twenty-two countries. They related many
variations on this common theme: After the House helped me
recover my spirit and get back on my feet, I have done and
and . Hearing these stories, you know that it
is possible to fight back against war, hatred, self-interest, and
ignorance. It is possible to touch individual human beings all around
the world. You just need a house, a community that embraces you,
ideas that inspire you, and a tireless spirit.
Recognizing the important
contribution of the House of Peace, organizers of the Global Peace
Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, have invited
Carrie to speak out of her experience. More than 500 women leaders
representing every region and faith are expected to gather October
7 at the United Nations in Geneva Switzerland for this initiative
of the Millenium World Peace Summit.
Potential youth interns who have an interest in
serving the ideals of the House of Peace are invited to visit
http://www.anthroposophy.org/Internship for more details.
Matthew Perry, is a freelance
writer on part-time staff at the Rudolf Steiner High School in Ann
Arbor, Michigan. He is also owner of The Passages Project, offering
interviewing, audio/visual recording and biographical writing services.
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