On Saturday afternoon February 7, 2014 four members of the Comox Valley L’ARCHE community gave a heartfelt presentation to almost fifty participants. It was truly informative and emotionally moving experience for everyone there.

Their power point presentation began with an introduction to the Vanier Family and the impact they have had on the lives of all Canadians and especially those with developmental disabilities worldwide. In 1964 Jean Vanier established L’Arche at Trosly-Breuil, France. Today in Canada there are 29 L’Arche communities, with over 200 homes and work settings where people with and without developmental disabilities live together in family-like relationships and learn from one another. There are hundreds of these intentional households in nearly 140 communities in the world. Traditionally Assistants lived in homes sharing life with those with developmental disabilities. Since 2000 there are a wide variety of new models in L’Arche worldwide, including support for those who live semi-independently, or providing Day Programs, i.e. daily activities. For example, L’Arche in Western Ukraine has no homes but provides four workshops that also welcome 30 people living in the East war zone; fragile L’Arche in Syria has a daily workshop for people living in refugee camps and also helps Caritas distribute vital supplies to more than 100 families. L’Arche Belfast has one home; two years ago, they started making organic soups and breads which resulted in a program called Root Soup, where they provide a hot lunch 5-6 days a week to the homeless and marginalized.

Parts of a Video, called Love and Belonging, released in November for the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche, were shown in which Jean Vanier speaks about what L’ARCHE means and what he sees is its purpose. There was a short history of British Columbia’s previous services for people with developmental disabilities. Two women, who are very involved in the program, also spoke about their own experiences and the work of the L’Arche Comox Valley Jubilee House where eight people with and without disabilities live together like an extended family. Two residents also shared their stories and their joy in being part of this loving community at Jubilee House.

A new model in L’Arche Comox Valley opened in 2006, called The Outreach Centre. It is a place for creative arts programs that contribute to the self-esteem and provide a place of welcome and belonging for local people with developmental disabilities. People from the local community share their friendship, time and talents to encourage economic sustainability through the shared creation of items that can be sold in the community.

These many benefits are what L’ARCHE has offered the Comox Valley community and surrounding area for the past fifteen years. “Changing the World, one heart at a time”

The presenters, in particular, Christine Monier, the Community Leader/Executive Director of L’Arche Comox Valley, since Feb. 2010, also spoke of their future dreams and hopes and their “I Belong” capital campaign to raise money to build apartments for adults who can live semi-independently, with support, in a caring community. This is also a place of welcome for “assistants” who live in community and offer much needed support daily, weekly, or monthly. There is a great need, worldwide, to find a place for adults with disabilities where they can live life to the fullest in a caring and affirming community that defines a compassionate, fully human society and celebrates the unique value of each person.

For information on becoming a L’ARCHE assistant in Canada, or to apply on-line, visit www.larchecanada.org To find out how you can contribute to this amazing local program visit www.larchecomoxvalley.org or call Christine Monier at 250-334-8320.