Work retreat – June 2018

You can come and help build Ocate Cliffs retreat center while being in an autistic workspace. This year we are combining our traditional autistic focused retreat with an international camp. Up to 10 volunteers from around the world are invited through Volunteers for Peace.



The full two week experience is from June 17 (Sun) to July 1 (Sun), 2018.

If you want to come for one week, you can come for the second week – June 24 to July 1 (We are generally not accepting people for different timeframes because of the disruption in gaining and losing people during the retreat, so please pick one of the two options.)


Ocate, New Mexico (northeastern part of the state).


The closest major airport is Albuquerque, and Denver is also an option if renting a car. Rides will be available from the Las Vegas New Mexico train station. This train is the Amtrak Southwest Chief which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles.

What you get

We’ll provide food. Some travel funds will be available, and divided up among those who need it. You’ll get the tools and training needed on site.

The experience can also provide excellent experience for future pursuits, and we’ll gladly write a supporting letter for a college or job application.

A few details

  • Each day will involve some hours of physical work and chores like cooking and washing. Work projects will probably include trail maintenance and other outdoor projects, and interior finishing such as plaster, flooring and painting. We will discuss the work needed each day and negotiate who will be responsible for each thing.
  • Sleeping arrangements will be in sleeping bags – either in tents (probably shared unless you bring a single tent), or on the floor in the staff house.
  • Food will be very basic vegetarian camp food such as beans and rice, fruit, and sandwiches. (You may also bring food for your particular dietary needs.)
  • You can take breaks and go on walks. You will have plenty of alone time if you need it.
  • We will organize some games and evening discussion topics, all optional.
  • To make it an autistic-friendly environment, we will need to be open to communicate in different ways. Depending on each of our needs we’ll arrange for rules that protect each person’s ability to be there and participate. For example we could create a rule about when we can use loud power tools.

Requirements for participants

  • You must be able to do physical work in the remote woods. You don’t need to be strong or skilled, but just be willing to work.
  • You must be able to handle the environment and sleeping conditions and food. There are bears, coyotes and wildcats. It may rain and get muddy, and sometimes tents leak.
  • For communications, there is an office phone and limited internet (for email only). There is no mail, stores or services. There is cell phone access for some carriers (Verizon is best).
  • You will need to acclimate to a moderately high elevation of 9000 feet. Some people have a slight sickness from the elevation and most people tire easily for the first one or two days.
  • If you are willing to present on your experience to other people where you live, you can earn a $75 speaking fee. It could be in writing, pictures, giving a talk, or otherwise in person (not only on line). This helps us get more publicity and helps with fundraising for our next steps.
  • You must be wiling to appear in promotional videos and photos. (Names won’t be released however.) A video is one of the important outcomes that needs to happen in order to do more fundraising.
  • If the participant is a minor, contact us first for arrangements.

Participant selection

If there is a lot of interest, we’ll have to limit our numbers. If we have to choose, we’ll favor people who represent a variety of geographical areas and those who appear to bring the most energy or skills or can reach a wider variety of people subsequently.


To let us know of your interest, please email Star and include:

  • Your name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • Phone (specify text or voice or both)
  • Disability status – For example your diagnosis or if you are self-identified. (This is needed to ensure we are serving disabled people as required by our non-profit’s mission.)
  • How definite you are about coming.
  • Dates
  • How you will get here, and whether you need travel help
  • Any needs for accommodations
  • Any questions you have

A note on full inclusion

We recognize that this chapter of the Ocate Cliffs history is not fully inclusive, and there are some disabilities and characteristics that cannot be accommodated yet. Part of the work is to make the place that is accessible, so we can accommodate more and more people as we get more of it built.

What will it feel like?

This is a totally new experiment, so try not to have very fixed expectations. Here’s some of the good and bad things that you should be prepared for.

On the good side, you might meet a person or two who are inspiring to you, and you might become friends, at least for the time you’re there. If you have communication trouble in everyday life, you might find that you’re included herein a way that you normally aren’t, and that communicating is easier, because there will be a collection of similar minds.

Because there will be a lot of people interacting with a variety of views, there will be conflicts. Probably the conflicts won’t be completely resolved, and possibly someone will say it was not safe space for them. We’ll talk about these things and try to move on even though it will be impossible to create absolute peace.

For those who haven’t been to anything like this, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that it changes from day to day. The first two days might be dull or lonely, but then the layers of personality wear off and we start to see people more deeply. It takes patience, and sometimes the sense of community and friendships don’t become apparent until nearly the end.

For me (Star) one of the most exciting things is the unlimited possibilities of an experiment like this. I want to find out if autistic people can pull this off, and what we need to do to make it possible to work together. What if a bunch of artists and researchers and writers and other beautiful people who mostly work independently were suddenly all together in a critical mass? I don’t know what will happen and that’s part of the excitement.


Contact: Star Ford, 505 908 9426 (cell 505 246 8490), for email see contact page