Today the director of Bonterre, (Bonne Terre aptly named ‘good ground’ in French) collected me from my house to bring me to our little piece of home. For Bonterre isn’t just a job for those that work there, Bonterre is the good ground we all maintain with love and support that is the basis of our community. Our community is made up of many beautiful souls of different ages and backgrounds. We all come together to plant seeds, tend to the fruits of our labour and nurture all that walk our grounds; be that four legged or two!!
On this particular day, it had snowed all night (“snow in March!” one of our students exclaimed!). It was freezing but that was not going to stop me from making the journey with Mike, who has been like a Dad to me since I first began my Bonterre journey in May 2022, to see our community; my family.
Snow covered the grounds as we pulled up and a student came towards the car. I knew that face, she was beaming and hugged me like we hadn’t seen each other in years. It had only been just over a month since I was admitted to hospital with bacterial meningitis and sepsis, but when you are with people daily, eating, working, playing, a month feels like a really long time.
It was clear I had been missed; people came over to the Flower Room, which my lovely friends had warmed up for me, to hug me, chat with me, laugh with me and just be. It was like I’d never been away. It lifted my spirits so much that for moments I forgot my circumstances.
Long before I went into hospital, Bonterre had become much more than just a day job. I spent weekends and holidays in my camper van just being on the farm, tending to the animals and nurturing my soul with the fruits from the orchard. In hospital I was told it would be a long time before I would be fit enough to return to the farm, but my Occupational Therapist told me that when I talk about the farm she sees the real ‘me’. She can see how much I love it, what it means to me and she told me she wants to get me back there. I made that my reason to eat, even when I couldn’t stop being sick. It was my reason to walk to the toilet and my reason to shower independently. On my last day in hospital, knowing I needed to do all I could to show the doctors I was well enough, Bonterre was my reason to walk to the shop upstairs to buy myself an ice cream.
One of our students once said “Bonterre is the reason I get out of bed in the morning”. Bonterre is the reason we all get out of bed, we are a network of people thrown together by circumstance but we love and accept each other because of that and we are never too scared to ask for help. When you find your crowd, you will just know.
Illustration by Charlie Mackesy, taken from his book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse’, first published by Ebury Press 2019