Katie, a young adult with autism, has found her voice and purpose helping farm animals and nature at Dream Catcher Meadows, a small 501c3 nonprofit green care farm in Potomac, MD.
During the first few months of the pandemic, Katie had been sitting at home in virtual school sessions and missing out on hands-on skill development, as programs planned through the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) were shut down. She was already dissatisfied with her prior job skills training (i.e., stocking CVS shelves and elderly care without supervision).
Her mother, Alicia, learned about Dream Catcher Meadows in June, through a co-worker who was volunteering with her sons over the summer. Alicia and Katie loved the idea of combining animals/nature with education and health, and have been helping out on the farm frequently since then. Please hear Katie speak for herself about her experiences in the attached video!
We are building Dream Catcher Meadows in order to provide a place for youth with neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and related conditions to thrive. These individuals need a low-stress environment to learn social, practical, and other life skills to integrate into the wider society. The farm provides a biodynamic educational environment, incorporating experiencial learning and interactions with hand-raised farm animals, gardening, grounds-keeping and small maintenance projects.
To-date, our basic farm operations have been funded primarily through contributions by the Founder, Dr. Susan Rich, as well as some limited paid programs, small donations and sales of farm products. In January 2020, Chief Sustainability Officer and farm manager, Jeremy Fedors, joined the team to coordinate volunteers, perform daily animal care, complete repairs and maintenance, and conduct administrative/outreach work. He has been compensated with housing on the farm for a minimum of 20 hours of volunteering per week, as well as a part-time paid position from January through mid-August, at which point funding was no longer available to keep him employed past the 20 hours.
Despite the setbacks brought on by the pandemic, we were able to open the farm to several youth during the summer and fall, but our ability to plan and supervise activities is fairly limited due to funding constraints, as well as the administrative work hours needed to get the project into full operation. We are working to formalize and expand these youth programs into a DORS (state-funded) reimbursable vocational program, and we hope to hire a vocational specialist to work in tandem with Jeremy running farm operations. In the meantime, this campaign will help fund basic farm operations (animal feed, vet bills, tools/equipment, maintenance, and Jeremy's salary).
Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our efforts to provide a safe, healthy, natural environment for youth!