Impact is a theme in our community this year and who knows about the impact of L’Arche better than people who have been part of our community? So we reached out to current and former community members to hear about their stories and relationships, and how L’Arche GWDC has impacted them. This is the sixteenth in a series of interviews with current and former community members of L’Arche GWDC titled: #LarcheImpact.
How long have you been at L’Arche GWDC and what are your role(s)?
I first came to L’Arche in January of 2015 as a social work practicum student with Eastern Mennonite University’s internship program based in DC, the Washington Community Scholar Center (WCSC). As an intern I worked half-time with the Development Team and half-time as a Euclid House volunteer. Following my graduation that spring, I returned full-time to the Development Team as the Hospitality and Social Media Coordinator.
What brought you to L’Arche?
I was studying social work in undergrad and intending to go into school counseling or suicide prevention but started having a recurring dream that made me decide to explore the possibility of working with people who have intellectual disabilities. When WCSC staff and I talked about potential internship placements I felt that it was the perfect time to explore that potential “call.” The WCSC staff had met a few community members at a career fair and helped connect me to L’Arche. Once I visited I refused to interview anywhere else which was risky, but I knew that this was where I wanted to be.
What’s one of your favorite memories at L’Arche?
It’s so hard to pick a single memory, because what I’ve loved about my time at L’Arche is how the regular and routine becomes special and sacred. I love seeing the joy on Eileen’s face when she finds a penny (or a $5 bill!) on the sidewalk, I love going out with Bruce to get donuts, I love talking to Hazel on the phone after dinner, and sitting next to Mo on the couch while he “fools with me” and steals my rings. I think the little pieces of individual friendships like these that have been what is the most meaningful.
What encouragement/advice do you have for people who are considering L’Arche?
This world and society too often tells us that in order to be valued we have to fill every minute of our lives with things that will help us be “better” and more successful/beautiful/tired/busy/etc. than other people. Take the chance to learn a different way of living by being present and going someone else’s pace or taking the risk to look silly. It will be worth it, I promise.
How have you grown in your time at L’Arche?
I’ve learned a lot about trusting myself and taking ownership of my gifts. The semester of school before I came to L’Arche as an intern was really difficult and I arrived with a lot of self-doubt because of it. A large part of this process has been learning when and how to prioritize my needs. It can be really tempting to answer work emails or phone calls when you’re “not busy.” I’ve begun to see that time as “busy meeting my needs” time rather than “not busy” time. When I’m not giving myself the time I need, I can see it in my ability to bring myself fully to my roles and relationships both at L’Arche and beyond. Starting to recognize this has allowed me to step back and think, “I have many gifts, I’m just not giving myself what I need in order to use them to their greatest potential right now. How can I work on changing that?” This shift in my thinking has been my biggest area of growth.
How does your time at L’Arche impact you today?
This fall I will be starting a masters program for special education, and the growth and encouragement of L’Arche is what helped me commit to my desire to go. This community is my family, and the relationships I have here will continue to impact who I am even as I leave this place physically. I anticipate that this is true in ways I won’t truly discover or understand until after I leave.
Do you have a favorite picture of your time at L’Arche you could share with us?
I have so many favorite pictures from my time here! I’m a very visual person and trying to capture my time and relationships at L’Arche has been really important to me over the past two years.
We invite you to share your own responses to the “#LarcheImpact” questions. Your responses can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
We are actively seeking new live-in and live-out assistants. Apply today!