A longtime Plains resident known as “Grizz” stopped by the office and like many proud grandfathers, he wanted to share the exciting news and stories of his two granddaughters who are in college; Sara and Abagail Stefanatos. Both girls are attending Manchester University. Sara is studying Peace Studies, while Abagail is studying History. Both women went on two very different educational trips within this past year. “Grizz” brought the articles written by his granddaughters and several photos with him to the Clark Fork Valley Press. We all believe the stories should be shared with our readers. — Douglas Wilks
By SARA STEFANATOS
Special to the Valley Press
This January I went on a school travel course with the Manchester Peace Studies Department. The class called “Utopian Experiments” and consisted of traveling to ten different communities, all varying in religious beliefs, environmental practices, poverty, economic policies, and social interactions. I visited the Shaker Village in Kentucky, the Abbey Trappist Monastery, The Farm in Tennessee, Koinonia in Georgia, Jubilee in Georgia, El Refugio in Lumpkin Georgia, Little Flower in Virginia, Living Energy Farm in Louisa Virginia, Twin Oaks in Virginia, and New Vrindaban Hare Krishna Temple in West Virginia. We had several excursions; the Civil Rights museum in Alabama, local bluegrass music at a Nashville pub, President Jimmy Carter Sunday in Plains Georgia, and the Habitat for Humanity headquarters in Georgia.
Jimmy Carter Sunday
On the last day visiting Koinonia I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to wait in line to have former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter teach Sunday School to me. His sermon compromised of readings from the Gospel, specifically from the Apostle Paul. President Carter spoke about the importance of peace and loving each person in your life, regardless of political views or differing opinions. When my group of six students and two Manchester Peace Studies staff approached Jimmy and Rosalynn for a picture we showed him our Peace Studies banner and he gave a thumbs up of approval and said, “Peace Studies, I’m on your side.”
Habitat for Humanity headquarters
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian based charitable organization that has built more than a million homes in countries around the world. It was founded in 1976 and this organization is committed to building modest, suitable, and affordable housing for those in need and has built over 1 million homes worldwide. The international headquarters are located in Americus, Georgia, which I was fortunate enough to visit. President Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter applied their religious beliefs to helping people in need of homes and became affiliated with Habitat for Humanity in 1984 and have since personally helped build thousands of homes for people in need of housing. The Carter’s brought attention to an organization that may have gone unheard of and faltered without their devotion to helping those less fortunate.
at the Farm
The third community we visited was the Farm in Tennessee. It was formerly a commune full of radical hippies but has since died down to a handful of ingenuities farmers and artisans and is no longer a commune. It is mostly a neighborhood with the shared value of living a sustainable, vegetarian lifestyle through perm culture, cohabitation between humans, animals, and nature. They had structures such as straw bale insulated houses and straw clay slip houses with clay and mud walls painted with 100% natural plaster and ecoplants. They built their own solar showers by using a reflective material to heat a container of water without using silicon shower panels. There was another design for solar showers that used black material that absorbed the sun’s heat in order to heat water underneath, which allowed for hot and warm showers several hours after the sun had gone down. There was a man from the Farm, Jason the Resourcer, who converted golf carts and diesel cars to run off vegetable oil instead of fossil fuels. There were grey water ponds that used the runoff water from showers, sinks, and laundry along with tropical plants to naturally clean their water supply instead of using chemical cleansing methods. The houses used mostly passive solar heating by building their structures with south facing windows to capture the heat during winter and cool during summer. They also had large stones, usually black or solid cement but not porous stones like cinder blocks, to hold the sun’s heat in order to keep their homes warm all day without having to use a furnace or their wood stoves. When it became too cold or the sun was not shining, they used wood stoves to heat their houses and those big stones, which is a renewable resource unlike coal, gas, or oil. It was a truly amazing place to be.
The highlight of this place was I got to hold a chicken. I am an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. I was raised in a small town and have not been around many farm animals before this was exciting for me!