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Returning to and Growing in Community

When Kara left L’Arche GWDC in 2015, after working as an assistant for two years, she knew she wasn’t done with L’Arche. L’Arche had impacted her profoundly. As she explored in her blog from 2014, the GWDC community had helped her find her voice, and she took that newfound voice and used it in New York City in her work and her church community.

And she continued thinking of L’Arche: “In the four years that I wasn’t with L’Arche, I was taking just about every opportunity I had to talk about L’Arche,” she said. In her work in NYC, she found herself incorporating spiritual practices from L’Arche, community building practices, and ways to ensure inclusion and giving every person a voice – all which she picked up while at L’Arche GWDC.

Even as she put those practices in place, she was longing for L’Arche: “I just really longed to come back to a place that was a place of collaboration and a place of supportive teamwork and where each person’s gifts really are highlighted and also put to best use for others.”

This longing surprised Kara – as a military kid, she had left many places in her life, but this desire to return was new. “I would kind of go to a place, I’d live there and then we’d move on and I wouldn’t think much of that place that I left behind. But L’Arche was the first place that I can say that really stuck with me and changed me in a way that I couldn’t let go of, didn’t want to let go of.”

Returning to L’Arche GWDC

Kara and Michael in Fall 2019

When she returned to our L’Arche community as a program coordinator, Kara was immediately drawn back into community life. She had missed the daily rhythms of L’Arche life, especially “the centering and the grounding of the daily practice of coming around the dinner table together.”

She moved into one of our Virginia homes for her first month, as she looked for a place to live. Living in a L’Arche home again for a time was a “gift” – “I just felt really sought out and known and invited in a way that felt just so familiar,” she explained. Kara was meeting a lot of new people but found that in her time away from L’Arche the culture had not changed. “These people were familiar because this place, and this culture was familiar. And that just made it so much easier to be welcomed in and just felt like a natural fit.”

Deepening Relationships

As she settled into her new role of program coordinator, Kara made new friends and deepened old friendships. Time spent with Charles, a core member in Virginia, came to mind as she spoke about growing in her friendships.

Kara had the opportunity to join Charles for an advocacy event in Richmond where she was excited to learn from him about his advocacy efforts. (Charles is an experienced advocate around disability rights.) Together they headed to the Virginia State Capitol, joining others with the Arc of Northern Virginia to speak to legislators and delegates about waiver services and other issues impacting people with disabilities.

Charles with Delegate Plum at the State Capitol in Virginia.

“Charles just knows he belongs in that space and he goes in with such confidence that it doesn’t matter if he’s talking to a senator or someone, or who else is advocating alongside him. He knows what he came to say, he knows that he is welcome to introduce himself. … His confidence around just introducing himself, making himself known, I think is really powerful.”

Charles’ confidence inspires and teaches Kara in her new role as program coordinator: “It’s really teaching me a lot about just naming my role and saying,‘this is what I’m here for. These are the questions I have. Here’s what I  do know, and how can we work together?’ I think that Charles models that really well.”

Kara feels “honored” to be in her role. L’Arche GWDC is honored that she returned to share her presence and gifts with us. We’re glad her suspicion that she wasn’t done with L’Arche turned out to be true!


You can read Kara’s 2014 blog here.

If you’re interested in working at L’Arche, check out our Careers page.

Written by Mary Ellen Dingley. Interview quotes were lightly edited for clarity.

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