Back to All Stories

Lack of Financial Resources Creates Difficulty for L’Arche in Latin America

Crisely Melecio-Zambrano and Johnny Schofield discuss ways their home in D.C. can support L'Arche in Latin America. Johnny suggested keeping a container in the living room to collect spare change. Photo by Bethany Keener
Crisely Melecio-Zambrano and Johnny Schofield discuss ways their home in D.C. can support L’Arche in Latin America. Johnny suggested keeping a container in the living room to collect spare change. Photo by Bethany Keener


Northern neighbors lend a hand through donations, friendship

“People used to say there was no way I could help the poor,” Johnny Schofield said. “Then my uncle gave me lots of pennies, and I gave them to the poor.”

Johnny continues to save pennies for the purpose of helping others. On March 8, he and his fellow members of L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. will be raising pennies – a whole lot of them – to help L’Arche communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Funds raised at the March 8 “solidarity” event will help pay for basic necessities like food, medicine, clothing, and stipends for assistants.

“We live with the challenge of maintaining a decent quality of life for our community members, which is affected by fragile fundraising systems,” said María Elvira Santacruz, International Representative for L’Arche Latin America.

L’Arche International is made up of 145 communities (consisting of one or more homes) in 40 countries around the world. Born in 1964 out of the Roman Catholic tradition, communities today focus their spirituality around Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and inter-faith traditions. While each has its own unique characteristics, they share common core values of dignity, relationship, spirituality, sharing life in community, and solidarity with one another.

According to L’Arche International’s web site, “Solidarity means to network with other international organizations, to contribute to conferences and public forums in order to influence society to bridge the gap between a society that neglects its weakest members and one that invites them to actively participate in public life.”

Joan Mahler, L’Arche USA National Director, notes that L’Arche’s work is about creating a more human society, which includes creating more access to opportunities and resources within the International Federation. “The communities of L’Arche in the United States – one of the wealthiest countries in the world – have a particular obligation to share some of the financial resources and opportunities that we have with our brother and sister communities,” she said.

As such, L’Arche USA has commited $70,000 to solidarity in fiscal year 2014. Most of the funds are received through the 18 communities that make up the national entity, either through special fundraising events or as a portion of their general operating funds.

L’Arche values mutual relationships, whether between people with and without intellectual disabilities or between communities that have financial disparities. Joan said this is expressed through prayer, spending time in each other’s communities, taking time to learn about each other’s stories and cultures, sharing wisdom and best practices, and celebrating each other’s milestones. Facebook and other social media platforms also keep communities connected by sharing news, photos, and updates about daily life.

L'Arche Mexico celebrates the federation's 50th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
Aurora and Gustavo of L’Arche Mexico celebrate the federation’s 50th anniversary. Photo courtesy of El Arca de Mexico Iap.

In September 2013, L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. helped sponsor a meeting of representatives from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Haiti, the United States, and Canada. María Elvira said the meeting was significant in that it helped exisiting and emerging communities renew their hope for L’Arche in spite of difficult financial circumstances. It also provided opportunity for training from International Leader Patrick Fontaine and International Delegate Zoël Breau, which deepened the participants’ understanding of the call and culture of L’Arche.

Virginia Schofield, Johnny’s sister, participated in the meeting as an observer and friend of the community in Greater Washington. She says the combination of little or no government assistance and no tradition of philanthropy in Latin America leaves people with intellectual disabilities with few resources. Some L’Arche communities earn an income from modest workshops, but money is scarce. Virginia has seen her two brothers, Johnny and Walton, thrive in L’Arche and dreams of a community developing in Cuba, their country of origin.

María Elvira, too, is hopeful that L’Arche will take root in more places. She would also like to see experienced assistants come live for short periods in some of the most vulnerable communities as a way of helping both communities live the call of L’Arche more authentically.

“The L’Arche communitites in the United States have our eternal gratitude for their unconditional loyalty and generous compassion,” she said. “Our prayers are always with you.”

Johnny, meanwhile, will continue to collect pennies and encourage others to share theirs as well. “In Latin America,” he said, “there are a lot of people who need help.”

-Bethany Keener


To help L’Arche Greater Washington, D.C. raise money for solidarity, join us on Saturday, March 8 for a bazaar, variety show, and pizza party. Or, give online through our secure web site and note solidarity in the comment section.

2:30 – bazaar opens
3:30 – variety show
5:30 – pizza party*

*RSVP to Bethany Keener at 202.507.1328 or so we order enough pizza!

 Marymount University
Reinsch Library Auditorium
4626 North 26th Street
Arlington, VA 22207

$10 suggested donation


Click to visit L'Arche International's interactive map.

Visit L’Arche International’s interactive map.


Stay up to date

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

[contact-form-7 id="275" title="Newsletter Sign Up Form"]