Trishanda Barhorst had the seed of an idea she wanted to help people with addiction issues when she started her bachelor’s degree program at Antioch University. It wasn’t until she started a writing course that she saw how her idea could turn into reality.
Adopted at age 9, she watched her birth mother struggle with drug addiction.
“It prevented her from being a good mom,” she said.
An assignment in her Professional Writing course, which she took during her second semester pursuing her Liberal Studies degree with a concentration in creative writing and literature, required her to write a grant for a program she would design.
“The door was completely open,” she said. “I’d never experienced that in education. There were always hard parameters.”
She knew she wanted to help people like herself who’d either struggled with past trauma and addiction or those currently struggling with addiction.
“I wanted to help in a place that’s innovative,” she said.
The assignment led to her developing the concept for Camp Carolyn, named for her late birth mother. It will be a transitional living farm and greenhouse for women in substance recovery.
If the assignment had been too specific in its requirements, Barhorst wouldn’t have had room to develop her idea.
She didn’t encounter any obstacles to her creativity during her time at Antioch.
“They never imposed themselves on the work,” she said of her professors. “They all said, ‘If you think you have a better idea or direction I’m open to it.’”
Barhorst always wanted to write since she could hold a pen, but her aspirations were pushed aside as she struggled with abuse from her birth mother, who was a drug addict and committed suicide when Barhorst was 8 years old.
“As I got older I saw (my struggles) as more of a springboard to helping others than as a weight on me,” she said.
Before she became a stay-at-home mom to three young boys five years ago, she considered a career in nursing and cosmetology but decided to pursue writing after all.
“As a writer, I am the authority,” she said.
When she started at Antioch, she found more of her passions, one of them writing creative non-fiction.
“I came to see my writing skill more as something to help people tell their own stories,” she said.
A requirement in her Professional Writing course was to create a community development block grant.
Over the following two years, she created and developed Camp Carolyn.
“I knew I wanted to work with addicts but when I started this assignment is when the idea took shape,” she said.
Residents of Camp Carolyn, for which Barhorst is seeking foundational funding, will complete three phases of the program she designed.
“It’s a holistic approach that treats the person, not the disease,” she said. “It addresses every component (of recovery) – diet, exercise, rebuilding relationships, job skills, spiritual pursuits – everything to make someone a productive member of society again.”
Barhorst, who will assume a role as executive director of Camp Carolyn, added her program creates a far-reaching ripple effect.
“I want to heal not only individuals but families and the community,” she said. “I want to touch as many lives as possible.”
It reaches even further, she added, by changing legislation around legalization and criminalization.
“It moves funding from punishing to helping,” she said.
As part of her senior project, she made a film of Camp Carolyn’s creative process, from creating personas of people who would benefit to addressing possible obstacles and taking the local environment (including her own history) into account.
In addition to pursuing a master’s in psychology at Antioch, opening Camp Carolyn and overseeing it, Barhorst hopes to sharpen her writing skills for another purpose she feels could be used as a world model for recovery.
“By creating Camp Carolyn I’m also creating access, giving residents an opportunity to share their stories with me,” she said. “I want to write their stories to help heal other people like me, sharing tragedy to create triumph.”