I don't know how to aptly describe the wonder and beauty of L'Arche. It truly changed my life and I watched it transform individuals, neighborhoods, programs and other volunteers for the 2 and a half years I lived in one of the homes as a volunteer. As a social worker in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, I can firmly state that there is nothing like it for people with disabilities. It is a place of love, dedication, selflessness, and commitment.
I have invited L'Arche to visit my students at The Catholic University for over four years because the story of how this community was founded and how they continue to positively impact persons with and without intellectual disability represents to me the perfect example of excellent social service.
- Matt Tapie, The Catholic University of America
I learned about L'Arche and its founder Jean Vanier from an episode of Speaking of Faith, and started volunteering in the DC community soon thereafter. The peace and love I found at L'Arche was healing and soul-stirring; those in the community welcomed me like I had been there for years. The mission of L'Arche to provide unconditional support for all is a model for society, and its wonderful core members, assistants, and volunteers live and breathe that mission every day.
I volunteered with l'Arche DC in the late 1980s as a live-in assistant. I found it to be a helpful experience in my life, with a good life/work balance, strong community support, and lively metropolitan culture. The organization is well run and stable, and provides a great sign of the value of the person, no matter their intellectual capacity.
I was given the privilege to spend 8 weeks with L'Arche GWDC last summer and was struck instantly by how genuine the community is. The interactions between core members and assistants, between the houses and their neighbors, between volunteers and board members, and any combinations of those people are kind, gentle, and incredibly life-giving. Life at L'Arche is real -- there are hang-ups and disagreements and mistakes -- but there is so much support within the community that I felt at home right away. I think the world has a lot to learn from L'Arche about how to love and live in relationship with ALL people.
L'Arche changed my life, but beyond that L'Arche changes the world one person at a time.
I had always felt uncomfortable around people with disabilities. I didn't know how to interact with them. Being involved with L'Arche made me realize there is no "them", there are just people - all of whom have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. I know that when I describe L'Arche to those who haven't experienced it - and it is an experience, not just an organization - many people cannot understand what it is beyond a "group home." Since I first interacted with L'Arche and the Core Members, I have known that the term "group home" was far too cheap a descriptor. L'Arche is a home, a community, a family, and a lifestyle. It is the best of what our world can offer for both persons with disabilities and people as a whole.
Respect, dignity, and love are the core tenets of life at L'Arche and every person - Core Member, Assistant, Volunteer, etc - who enters a L'Arche home can immediately feel the TLC for the soul provided within. L'Arche provides a home for life for its Core Members, a community forever for its Assistants and Volunteers, and a true and remarkable worldview for everyone.
L'Arche is a place where people are respectfully allowed to be themselves. People are loved for who they are and L'Arche stands as a beacon of what can be done when people consciously decide to treat each other with mutual respect and care. So many other organizations that care for disabled adults do it in the capacity of "staff" and "residents." L'Arche is a family and you can see that from a distance. L'Arche takes a lot of emotional presence to be an effective member of the family, but the imprint it leaves on your life, on your soul, will last forever and open your eyes to see the world in a new and beautiful way.
L'Arche has contributed greatly to my understand of family, friendship, vulnerability, and love. There is no place like L'Arche. L'Arche is a home. It is a family. It is a place where gifts are shared and exchanged. It is a place where people grow, change, and are healed. L'Arche is also a sign that people with disabilities can be loved, valued, and cherished if only we are willing to take the time to be with them, and to let them be with us. My life in L'Arche began with the Greater Washington DC Community. I hope that others will also have the chance to interact with this energetic and kind group of friends.
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.
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.
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 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.