Life at VHC with Kids

Greetings readers! This is my very first blog post entry and I’m excited to give you a glimpse of life at Village Hill Cohousing from the perspective of a parent of a young child. My family, which includes me, my wife and our now 4 year old son, moved here in June 2023. We were eager to start getting to know our neighbors and build community with other families with young children in the Valley. Before arriving here, the community set up a welcoming play space in the smaller dining room, which we also refer to as the “kids room” in the Common House. It has books, toys, art supplies and a cozy futon mattress on the floor. Since our unit is small, we spent the summer moving between our home, the kids room and, of course, the great outdoors around VHC, to find places to play in and explore – and get a respite from the heat.

As summer came to an end, I began planning for Halloween – one of my favorite holidays! I decided to organize and host a kids Halloween party in our Common House. I partnered with the Neighborhood Engagement Team (NET) “up the hill” in the greater Village Hill condo community and we planned a combination adult costume parade and outdoor gathering / kids crafting and games party. We invited folks from the larger Village Hill neighborhood, cohousing, North Commons and from my son’s school. Despite rainy, chilly weather on the day of the party, it was a huge success! Members of VHC volunteered to help set up and run activities, including limbo, pumpkin painting, and a “no hands, hanging donuts” eating contest. People contributed snacks, cupcakes and apple cider. My wife, Annie, aka “DJ Annie RUOK” DJ’d the party and it was so much fun to see people letting loose and dancing in costume! 

Our community continues to be conscientious about COVID. We utilized HEPA filters, open windows, a ceiling fan and a CO2 monitor to increase ventilation and monitor air flow. It was a little chilly in the room but the young people did not mind and it gave us all an excuse to dance to stay warm!

As winter approached, a small team of us decided to throw another kids-centered event called the Welcome Winter party. We were particularly interested in inviting families from North Commons to participate; part of our effort to build relationships with the renters in that building and to open up our Common House to more community-building events. One of the event organizers from North Commons, Starrcrystal, made an amazing spread of (mostly) vegetarian food and Mariel (VHC resident) got a big pizza to share. We set up a couple crafting activities, the most popular being “Make your own tissue paper lantern.” And once again, the amazing “DJ Annie RUOK” DJ’d for us. And yes, the limbo stick made another appearance! 

We hope to have many more family-centered events at VHC as we continue to think of ways to make our community welcoming and accessible to parents of young children and to celebrate our fabulous young people who are such a joy to live in community with!

Afghan women refugees find their voice

Reposted from Focusing Initiatives International with slight amendments

Several VHC community members are engaged in “Circles of Care” to assist two Afghan refugee families (two men, two women, and three children under the age of three) in Western Massachusetts. The women are home with the children all the time while the husbands are working.

Over the last year, we had noticed a wonderful skill they had: creating beautiful henna designs on their hands, and those of the circle members. 

Henna is a plant-based dye, used in colored inks and delicately applied to various body parts in beautiful patterns.  It’s used during celebrations of special occasions and gatherings, and is meant to bring good luck and happiness. 

We asked the women if they would be interested in holding a ‘Henna Tea Party’, with in the Common House VHC’s neighborhood residents invited to get a henna design and make a donation. 

Initially they were very nervous about this, unsure about what they were getting into, how it would work  and how they would feel.  But they have a spontaneous, creative and resilient spark in them – and they agreed. As the planning started, they became more and more excited and involved. 

The “Henna Tea Party” took place at the end of December. Neighborhood residents were invited to participate and asked for a donation. 

On the day of the party, we all created an atmosphere of celebration and Afghan culture, with appropriate decorations, music, tea, and snacks. More than thirty people came, each scheduled for a henna design every 15 minutes.  And we heard from many more who couldn’t come but donated anyway.   

Afterward, the women said they totally enjoyed themselves.  They liked being able to talk to each person during the time they were in front of each other. 

“I was tired but also felt very happy.”

“I  liked my work and felt good.”

“I was happy that they were happy and it was the best feeling I had since I came to the US.”

This event served several purposes.  It educated and exposed the local community to the Afghan families and Afghan culture.  Everyone had fun and helped raise money to support these families.  The women had a chance to share their gifts and talents, and interact with the local community.   And most importantly, they had a sense of accomplishment, of doing something meaningful on their own.

henna drawing on hands