Mawuni is a 340-acre intentional community in Upstate New York dedicated to the safe harbor of LGBTQ young adults at risk and older adults in need of support. The pastoral setting—beautiful farm and woodland ringed by the Catskill mountains—is the backdrop for the life changing work we’ve planned.
Mawuni’s primary objective is to provide a supportive home base and accepting community to young adults who are experiencing homelessness when recently aged-out of foster care, leaving institutional settings, seeking asylum and whose reality has been compounded by poverty; and older adults who are overlooked and are struggling to survive amidst abandonment and social isolation.
The vision is to create a holistic, nurturing and supportive living environment founded on the core principles of knowledge sharing, self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity and sustainability.
Through short and long term stays Mawuni will help to develop the trajectory of its residents while providing respite and sanctuary for visitors from the LGBTQ community at large.
Exposed to an array of transformational course options, moving from potentiality to actuality, residents, participants and visitors can experience themselves anew. They will take part in cultural, educational, environmental, vocational, and healing programs. They’ll work, garden, create, cook, learn, and commune with nature and each other. Inspired and empowered, they will develop the skills to navigate their paths through life with confidence and grace to reclaim their natural birthright to experience joy, laughter, beauty, peace, harmony, dignity, confidence and wellbeing.
A Model of Possibility
Mawuni is a pilot project, an experiment that envisions itself as a model of possibility empowering participants to grow and thrive so they may positively impact both the natural environment and their local and global communities.
Our holistic program is being designed around four pillars: farming, the arts, wellness and vocational training. Programming will incorporate wraparound services to effectively address psychological distress while providing tools to develop and enhance socio-emotional competencies and leadership skills.
Where We Are Now
Currently in our exploratory phase, we’re developing our capacity via the Mawuni Leadership Lab, a community building initiative designed to gather stakeholders in themed working groups. To begin creating a solid foundation for our organizational infrastructure and programming, the Leadership Lab will activate and channel the collective talents, diversity and creativity of Mawuni supporters from all walks of life including, artists, teachers, farmers, designers, healers, social workers, funders, entrepreneurs and officials.
Simultaneously, we’re laying the ground for collaborations with the three neighboring colleges from the State University of New York (SUNY)—Delhi, Oneonta and Cobleskill— in the areas of infrastructure, technology as well as creating evidence based research to inform us about project impact and scalability.
Engaging LGBTQ Youth
Harnessing the power, vision and enthusiasm of young people, Mawuni is engaging young adult stakeholders. This includes the development of an active Young Adults Advisory Council. Rather than simply listening to young people sharing their stories we want to provide a space to start the conversation and co-create a shared vision of our future.
We understand the value of youth collaboration and through their active participation in developing and running the programs, we create systems that work better for all of us.
Engaging Older LGBTQ Adults
Ever mindful of the wealth of wisdom and ideas our elders embody, Mawuni is actively engaging with LGBTQ older adults and their allies to develop programming, infrastructure and services in partnership with our youth advisory board.
Mawuni elders will have opportunities to serve in various roles throughout the community including: mentoring, shepherding and stewarding young people, providing cultural competency trainings, storytelling, and tips and tools on LGBTQ advocacy for vulnerable populations to the wider community.
Mawuni plans to create an intergenerational eco-village of small homes serving a majority LGBTQ adults – aged 55 and older, to live and work. The village will be initially designed to house up to forty-five individuals in thirty small dwellings with room to expand, and opportunities to share in the activities and programs of the larger Mawuni community.
Mawuni’s social enterprise initiatives will be driven by the employment opportunities created for residents and participants via the organization’s operational needs and programming. Residents will have opportunities to participate in a variety of ways, including: working on the farm to develop sustainable food systems, working as artists, preparing healthy meals, or working to build, maintain and repair structures on the property.
Future expansion efforts involve cultivating partnerships with neighboring farms, colleges and local businesses to produce an array of socially conscious products and services, to be offered to the public including, eco-tourism, food products, natural cosmetics, specialty t-shirts and other Mawuni branded products that are aligned with the Catskill food and crafts movement.
Honoring Our Name
In the language of the Lenape Indians, Mawuni means collectively. Community was essential to the Lenape, whose guiding principles were kindness, compassion, and shared responsibility for one another and their land. In that spirit, Mawuni—our intentional community and future eco-village—is slowly being brought to life.