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Home Is Where the Heart Is

Home Is Where the Heart Is


For Sunshine Wohl of Pownal, Vt., the death of her brother to AIDS in 1987 was both a tragedy and blessing in disguise. Though devastated, Wohl discovered what she says is the true purpose in her life'helping to nurture the bodies and spirits of others living with the disease. While visiting her brother at a hospital in Florida, Wohl sadly observed that most of the other AIDS patients had few, if any, friends or family who would visit, often leaving them alone and frightened. 'I realized that talking with them, even if it was just a couple of nice words, really helped. I think it boosted their immune systems,' she says. 'Their color would come back a bit. Their spirit was stronger. And it also made me feel great.' With her brother's encouragement, Wohl continued to reach out to other AIDS patients, first as a hospital volunteer in Florida and then as the founder of Chrysalis Community, a holistic healing center and residence located on a 108-acre farm she purchased near Pownal. The renovated farmhouse, built in1860, serves as a free home for up to five adults with late-stage AIDS and offers such healing activities as acupuncture, yoga, dream sharing, hug therapy, meditation, and guided imagery, among others. Wohl has only three criteria for Chrysalis residents: They must have late-stage AIDS, have their own health insurance (and obtain and administer their own medications if on an anti-HIV drug regimen), and be willing to embrace alternative forms of healing. 'Even though this is a very beautiful place, this isn't a place where people come to stay in their rooms and wait to die,' she explains. 'This is a living community.' However, Wohl recognizes that some of the Chrysalis residents may be facing death, and so she strives to make the community a place where those with AIDS can both live and die with love. 'If they allow me the privilege of being part of their transitional process, I'm able to help them pass in peace and without fear,' she explains. Ultimately, Wohl hopes Chrysalis will be the first of many around the country that offer alternative healing approaches to fighting AIDS. 'Cancer has holistic centers. Other diseases have holistic centers. But AIDS doesn't,' she says. 'Being touched and loved and accepted'and just seeing the beauty of nature'is really important for everyone, especially if you're living with AIDS.'

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