By Margaret Magnus
In July 2010, Samantha and Leslie Bridger, along with their 16-year-old daughter, Georgie, arrived at Meher Mount to assume their new duties as volunteer Manager/Caretakers. They emigrated to the US from Forest Row in East Sussex in the United Kingdom (UK).
Leslie Bridger had been an estate manager and groundsman. He trained with the British Conservation Trust Volunteers in conjunction with the Plumpton Agricultural College and received certificates in forestry and related equipment use.
For most of his professional career, Leslie worked as an electrical/mechanical maintenance engineer with the British Airports Authority. He also published a collection of his poetry, Fishing for God - A Poetic Awakening, under the pen name Aman.
Professionally, Samantha worked as a complementary healing therapist and was trained in massage therapy, reflexology, Reiki therapy, and clinical and holistic aromatherapy. She was involved in fund raising for their daughters' activities, playing an active role in their PTA.
Georgie was a high school junior at the Ojai Valley School. Their second daughter, Rebecca, stayed in England joining them later.
Coming to Meher Mount - Coincidence or Divine Plan?
In the summer of 2009, the Bridger family was on vacation in the US scouting out places where they might like to live. In their travels, they were drawn to Ojai, CA, deciding that it had the qualities they wanted.
While in the Ojai area, they, of course, visited Meher Mount. On one of their visits, Sam Ervin and I were in residence as temporary caretakers.
When Leslie and Samantha arrived, Sam greeted them and began sharing some of his stories about Meher Mount. He also mentioned that the board was recruiting for new Manager/Caretakers to start sometime the following year.
Listening to this conversation, I thought to myself, "Sam, why are you bothering to discuss this? They live in England and probably don't know many people in the US who would be likely candidates."
At just that point, Leslie said, "We would be interested in being considered for the Manager/Caretaker position."
Leslie then indicated that the family had already decided to emigrate to Ojai because they felt at home in the area. In addition, they had relevant experience and flexibility in their current professions. And after having learned of Avatar Meher Baba and becoming involved in the UK Meher Baba Association in 2007, they were definitely drawn to Meher Mount.
Moreover, they wouldn't be available until the following year when their daughter Georgie graduated from her school and they had completed all the necessary immigration paperwork - so the timing was perfect.
They left saying they'd be in touch. And they were! They agreed to come to Meher Mount to be temporary Manager/Caretakers to see if volunteering for this position was something they really wanted.
A Flooded Kitchen and a Leaky Roof
On their first visit around Christmas 2009, the Leslie and Samantha arrived in a downpour at Meher Mount with the roof leaking and puddles of water all over the kitchen floor. It was a great orientation to "real life" at Meher Mount.
The Bridgers pitched in and cleaned up the water and worked with the resident Manager/Caretaker Ray Johnston in doing another roof patch. Then they settled in for a week at Meher Mount and loved it.
An Encounter with the Iceland Volcano Fallout
In April 2010, the Bridgers came back, this time with 16-year-old Georgie, to see what life would be like for all three of them and to visit high schools in the area. Mission accomplished, and they began their trek back to the UK.
However, at Los Angeles international airport, they discovered that all planes to and from Northern Europe and the UK were grounded due to the volcanic ash erupting through the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland.
Unable to fly, they went back to Meher Mount where Georgie had a chance to spend the day at her proposed new high school, becoming more convinced this was the place for her.
So it seems that Sam's intuition was right in mentioning the Manager/ Caretaker opening to "unlikely" prospects.