Staff Spotlight – Mali and Kari Amstutz

 

When Kari Amstutz and Mali Bjorgan leave Camphill Ghent in late July for their new home in Switzerland, they will be fulfilling a longtime destiny. For Kari who was born in Switzerland, it will be a coming home of sorts after living abroad for 20 years. For Mali who has felt a strong affinity for the country for three decades, it will be the culmination of a lifetime dream to live there.

“It will be familiar, but new,” said Kari. “I will meet life differently.” For Mali, she said she looks forward to finding meaningful work that will make a difference to others. “I am going there looking for what the need is, finding the gesture to do what’s needed to be done.” The couple initially plans to settle in Basel where they have an apartment to stay in and family nearby. Kari’s son and family –including two grandchildren—and his parents who are in their 90s will all be there in the area. Mali said she is looking forward to spending more time in nature, biking and walking as is part of the culture and being immersed in family life. “Elders are a big part of that life,” she said. Kari said he is looking forward to exploring things in a new social context, beekeeping, seeing friends, gardening and anthroposophy. “We will slowly build a new life over the next few years,” he said. The couple is excited to be near Dornach, considered to be the “home” of anthroposophy.

The couple has gone back to Switzerland at least twice a year for many years and developed a social network of friends and family that will make transitioning to their new home a little easier. Since the early 1990s, Mali wanted to move to Switzerland. She met Kari in Camphill Copake in 2005 and visited the country for the first time, going back at least once a year for the past 15 years. “It’s a destiny thing,” she said. “It’s moving on.” Mali discovered anthroposophy in 1985 with Waldorf kindergarten training in Michigan and later moved to Beaver Run. She left there to pursue her nursing degree from Georgetown University, later coming to Copake where she worked in the doctor’s office for five years before moving into a care house with Kari.

While they are not certain what their next step will be in their new home, it is sure to revolve around healthcare in some form or another. Both Kari and Mali are licensed nurses and thrive in a non-traditional healthcare environment. “Our love is elders and those with special needs,” said Mali. “Working together in eldercare is much of our life together.” While they met in Camphill Copake, it was moving to Camphill Ghent as pioneers of a new type of community that inspired them to continue with that type of model of care. “Our part was to build it up,” said Kari of starting Camphill Ghent as a unique community for elders with and without special needs. “I would like to see more younger resident coworkers come along and continue it.” Developing and being involved in similar communities in Switzerland interests both of them and there has been a great deal of discussion about the large numbers of seniors coming of age. “There’s a wave of elders in Switzerland and it would be wonderful to translate what’s been created here,” said Mali.

While the couple will come back to visit regularly as two of Kari’s sons live here, Camphill Ghent will always be their second home. Residents will miss them, said Sylvia Bausman, who said they are a great team. Nancy Elliott, whom Kari has helped move and with many other tasks, agrees. “Kari just takes care of things and makes it easy,” she said. “He’s never thrown off balance, he steps in where needed and he has a gentle hand,” added Sylvia.

Kari and Mali look forward with anticipation to this new chapter in their lives, but also embrace their many years in Camphill communities, especially Camphill Ghent. “It’s really our task to not just go forward and do our own thing, but to participate and do what needs to be done on a daily basis,” said Kari. “For me, Camphill means the world,” said Mali. “This will always be our second home.”