Respect and Dignity are two words that first come to mind when thinking of the L'Arche community. For core members of L'Arche there are no disabilities, only different abilities. Thanks to L'Arche every person has the opportunity to shine. -Kim Pintabona
There are so many examples i could give to show how extraordinary L'Arche is ( if the world lived by their example it would be a far better world!) Something wonderful that happened recently was when a core member of L'Arche was hospitalized and had round the clock support by a L'Arche assistant or friend of L'Arche a doctor said he had never witnesed that kind of care and unconditional love..He was also very surprised and impressed when the patient was excited about returning "home" Rarely does that happen...often times that patient does not want to go back to their living situation because they feel better taken care of in the hospital. I think we would all want that for ourselves and for all mankind.
I think it is so very important for individuals with developmental disabilities to be in a community where they are part of mutually trans formative relationships and this is what L'Arche's foundation is.
Long before I first stepped foot in any of the four warm and welcoming homes of L'Arche, Inc., I was compelled to read about it, watch videos, and hear the stories of its members. I was preparing to lead a group of spring break students for a week of service in the Arlington homes. One week for me turned into a commitment to return for a year as a live-in assistant. I was at the brand new Sixth Street Home, being welcomed by long standing community members, and then welcoming four new core members to their home for life. L'Arche stands apart because it meets its guests, volunteers, and members where they are, and celebrates their gifts and values. Each home has its own branch of the family tree, and because of the emphasis on community, that extends far in the greater D.C. area. The community supports each other in times of joy and sadness. The core members see many individuals pass through the doors of their homes for dinner, to live with them, and for many other endeavors, but they are always ready to embrace a new person. They are the true treasures of Arlington Heights and Adams Morgan, the neighborhoods that L'Arche resides in.
It's hard to say just how much being a part of the L'Arche Greater Washington DC community has meant to me. My time there has informed not only my current work (as a writer with a focus on sharing the stories of people with special needs), but the way I experience the world. When I arrived at L'Arche to be a direct-care assistant in 2007, I thought I'd stay for just one year. One year turned into five years, however, as I served in roles from assistant to home life coordinator to program director to consultant to volunteer and friend. Though it was a challenging journey at times, it was also full of joy. L'Arche DC, like any organization comprised of human beings, isn't perfect -- but its members are very good at giving one another second (and third, and fourth, and five-hundreth) chances. (Not to mention the fact that they know how to laugh, dance, and throw a good party.) They know how to ask good questions, how to grieve, and how to celebrate, and I am proud to have been a part of their life. And their practice of community-based caregiving is transformative. Supporting another person helps you to know your own vulnerability. When the core members at L'Arche welcomed me into their family, they changed my heart, and for that, I will always give thanks.
I have been a part of the L'Arche DC family for almost 30 years. If ever there was an island of love in the world, L'Arche is it. The gentleness and compassion shared between the core members and staff is inspiring. People are loved for the gifts each one brings to the community. I was fortunate to raise my children within the L'Arche community. When others remark on how caring they are, I give credit to their L'Arche family. To Gene and Mo who held them as babies and celebrated many milestones with them, to Michael, who knows their every life detail, and for all of the many others who loved them as they were growing up. I cannot think of a better way to promote good in the world than by contributing to L'Arche. The ripple (or wave) effect is enormous.
L'arche holds a special place for me within the confines of my ministry. When I was in seminary working toward my Masters of Divinity, I happened to be assigned the book, Adam, written by Henri Nowen. It had a truly profound effect on my experience with people with intellectually disabled individuals. The book was written with such passion and compassion. What Nowen discovered and has helped me to realize and believe is that we are all called to community. It was Jean Vanier who discovered L'arche; however, it is the individuals within its doors who make the impact on human existence and experience for those who dare to take a chance to explore it. L'arche has opened my mind to what a community founded in Christ can mean and how we live, eat, breathe and learn to be together as one. It is a venue of love, compassion, honor, and forgiveness; a place of welcome, warmth, humanness, and growth. L'arche has helped me to learn more about myself from those who are served much more than belonging to one faith community or church. It has taught me ministry in the greatest way, through faith and hope!
Greater DC L'Arche is an unusual organization. At its heart are humanity and compassion; L'Arche is also a well-run organization with a dedicated, organized, conscientious and skilled staff and volunteers, who show what human dignity is all about.
I was introduced to the L'Arche community as a spring break student at Loyola College in 2005. As an alternative break volunteer, my placement was the most alternative of the group. We were asked to get to know the community and why it was needed in the DC area. We were introduced to the world of disability rights in DC. The first home I walked into was a humbling experience of instant welcome. I did not feel like I had to be anything "important" or even have anything interesting to say. The fact that I was a guest in the home was excitement enough for the people hosting my group. After my first experience, I knew I wanted to come back, to feel that welcome. I became an assistant in 2008 after graduating college and became a house leader in 2010. I was consistently challenged in my role by the dailiness of community life and the intimacy of knowing my housemates in some of their darkest times. Sometimes, I was overwhelmed by the community expectations and the role of leader/caregiver to my housemates. Being in L'Arche though, has taught me about consistency in friendship, gentle direct communication, and my time there has given me a more open heart to welcome an outsider. The work that L'Arche does in advocacy and friendship with people with disabilities world wide is inspiring and needed. I would often love to listen to other assistants talk about the mission of L'Arche, just to hear how wonderful it is that I was a part of it. I left the L'Arche community in 2011, but still live in the neighborhood of the Arlington homes and am reminded how it is still my responsibility as a friend to continue the work of L'Arche through developing the relationships I have built there, and communicating the needs of people with disabilities, (most importantly , the need to be respected and celebrated) with all of my current communities. The work of L'Arche is never done, and leaving L'Arche has only made me see how my time there will direct the rest of my life.
L'Arche is most effective in assisting adults with developmental disabilities to have "a voice" in civil and community affairs. L'Arche members have testified at State & County hearing in Virginia, and public meetings in DC. L'Arche highlights the citizenship that everyone enjoys.
I spent a week at L'Arche and it was a phenomenal experience. I had no idea what to expect and the week was just wonderful. The core members had such an impact on me and the community was so strong it was so inspirational!
L'Arche in Greater Washington D.C. serves people with intellectual disabilites with great finesse wrapped in love. This intentional community welcomes people without disablilities to live in and enter into mutual relationships with the people who have challenges. The community is continually on a creative path of building a strong home life and pursues stimulating activities both intellectual and recreational to enhance the lives of everyone involved. It has been a joy to be involved for 13 years. Dorothy Copps Community Leader in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
As a sibling of a person with a developmental disability, one of my greatest concerns is the lack of independent living opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Spending an evening with a L'Arche community showed me that these opportunities not only exist but are attended caring communities of equality, dignity, and faith. My time with L'Arche, brief as it was, has redefined my hopes of independent living for my friends -- and sister -- with intellectual disabilities. Thank you L'Arche.
L'Arche is nothing short of amazing. As a visitor, you are sucked into the energetic and passionate environment, making it no surprise that most visitors go on to volunteer in some capacity or another. As a volunteer, I found myself spending most hours of the day at L'Arche, because there was truly no where else I wanted to be. And as a supporter of numerous organizations of people with disabilities and after having experiences with other organizations that provide homes for people with all types of abilities, I can honestly say that L'Arche is top-tier and that any person who experiences L'Arche in any capacity will grow in an emotional, spiritual, and compassionate way.
My name is Ann West and it has been a privilege to be apart of this non-profit organization/community. Everyone that I have encountered have been people of integrity and effective in running the day to day operations as well as a vision for the future. I think L'arche changes lives and our society at large.
At L'Arche, I've seen firsthand transformations in people with intellectual disabilities, people without intellectual disabilities through a shared experience of daily life. I have a friend at L'Arche who lived in a institution for people with disabilities from the age of 5 to sometime in his late forties. We don't know quite what he experienced there since he does not like to talk about it, but it has been described by others as a jail. In the more than 25 years since he left the institution to live at L'Arche, my friend has created a rich life for himself. He walks around the neighborhood every afternoon, stopping in McDonalds for a cup of coffee, and greeting all the people who now know him. He works at an art workshop creating beautiful paintings and pastels that he sells on the internet and in a gallery. Friends sometimes take him to see car races, and he watches with a smile on his face while wearing his red NASCAR hat. Last night he was telling me how excited he is to go to church on Sunday. L'Arche has even helped him reconnect with his half brother, and my friend is looking forward to a trip down to Florida to visit. My friend has also had an impact on me. I love the way he greets me with, "Hello, Grandma!" every time I walk in the door of his house, and that he's always up for a friendly pillow fight on the couch. His welcome and smile make me feel right at home. I don't need to be strong or impressive around him; I just need to be me. I hope that you will get involved in L'Arche and find out the gifts that this extraordinary community has to offer.