Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) shares stewardship of the 1,400-acre Rolling Ridge wilderness area in West Virginia preserved by Quakers for “perpetual spiritual use.” Since 1974 FWC has served as “a place of peace and tranquility” in troubled times of war, systemic racism, environmental crisis, and now a global pandemic.
The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) partnership offers an inspiring example of collaboration. Volunteers from the Sidwell Friends School community in Washington, D.C., saved the traditional Tibetan farmhouse from inundation by a dam and formed a nonprofit to rebuild it at FWC. In 2019, student volunteers joined local builders to raise the house’s timber frame, and this summer built its enclosing walls. CFHR now links FWC to a culturally and spiritually diverse, agrarian, riverside community half-way around the world.
Rebuilding demands flexibility and perseverance. When the original rammed-earth walls didn’t meet local building codes, hempcrete provided an innovative, environmentally sustainable alternative. And, when the pandemic jeopardized plans for experiential learning this summer, teens opted to voluntarily isolate for 14 days before joining quarantined work crews who built the largest hempcrete wall in North America. The project is infused with their energy, enthusiasm, and spirit. More information about CFHR is available at chinafolkhouse.org.