By Manu Allard,
member of L'Arche Canada's communications team.
Last Monday, I was just getting ready to leave for Montreal to attend a L'Arche Communications meeting when I saw on Facebook that L'Arche Ottawa was holding an open house at their new home.
There was no way I could miss this event, and so I took a complete detour, right in the middle of rush hour. Located in a calm neighbourhood, the new home can be easily accessed by the 417 (Woodroffe Exit), or by taking the John A. MacDonald Parkway along the river.
I drove into 2361 Whitehaven, and had barely gotten out of my car when John Comfort, L'Arche Ottawa's Development Officer, greeted me with a warm handshake.
Inside, family members, neighbours, donors and friends of the community had gathered to celebrate the opening of the new space. Big, contented smiles filled the home. John and Donna Rietschlin were among the many people who were clearly delighted at the occasion.
John and Donna Rietschlin
Donna was L'Arche Ottawa's community leader for a number of years and John currently chairs L'Arche Canada's Board of Directors.
The renovations were not quite finished, but even though no one had moved in yet, the home already radiated a strong presence of L'Arche Ottawa's openhearted warmth. Right away I felt welcome and the space felt familiar. Like home. No matter the continent or culture, the ability to create a sense of welcome remains one of the greatest strengths of L'Arche communities.
Volunteers Nora and Linda greet guests in the exhibition room.
“A new home is born.”
The birth of a new home is always an important event for L'Arche communities. This is particularly true when the home is specially designed and built from scratch. Such a project requires the entire community to participate and the process can be extremely long and labour intensive.
Three Years of Preparation and Reflection
2361 Whitehaven was made possible by the efforts of many people within the L'Arche Ottawa community. Each person contributed in their own way, either directly or indirectly, whether it was by articulating the community's needs or carrying out concrete actions.
Daniela Bara and Louise Roberge on the back patio of L'Arche Ottawa's new home.
Louise Roberge, the chair of L'Arche Ottawa's Board of Directors, and Daniela Bara, the community's leader, both expressed how lovely it was to see everyone get involved in the project. Families, core members, assistants and community leaders, all joined forces for the cause: “Everyone really worked together.”
According to Daniela and Louise, the process was very long. The journey began when it became evident that they needed a home that was better adapted to some of the community's aging core members. It took more than a year to find the building, and with the many steps involved in designing and approving plans, holding community meetings and carrying out renovations, the entire project took a solid three years. The two women are clearly very satisfied with the outcome.
Serving as a living room, dining room and community meeting space, the multi-purpose room is absolutely gorgeous. Next to the main room, a smaller living room provides residents with the opportunity to watch television or spend some time alone.
Visitors will be immediately impressed by the great care that was put towards the layout of the space, in addition to its windows. Everything is amazingly spacious and bright. Project manager Raphael Amato tells the story:
“Together as a community, we had a dream to replace the Oasis and L'Eau Vive, homes that were no longer adapted to the needs of some of our aging community members as they lost their autonomy.”
John Riordan, who designed the spaces, formed a sort of “couple” with Raphael for the project. Gathering input from community members, together they brainstormed and designed the layout of the new home. John, with his extensive knowledge of L'Arche and its needs, was the one who suggested the large windows.
Louise with Designer John Riordan
Raphael Amato and Basil Richardson
This new Francophone home was specially designed to accommodate our aging community members. Along with Bradford Construction's Project Manager Basil Richardson, Raphael and John took extra care to address accessibility issues.
Core members Denis Marlene, Robert, and Lorr will soon move into 2361 Whitehaven Crescent, along with another yet-to-be-determined community member. The home will also welcome four assistants, with Robin Bruneel serving as the house leader.
Future resident Robert
Call for Appliances and Furniture
L'Arche Ottawa was able to cover the purchase of the building and its renovations through the sale of the Oasis and Eau Vive homes, in addition to a mortgage. That said, 2361 Whitehaven's budget is still quite tight and the community is calling on friends of L'Arche and their generosity to help furnish and equip the new home. Click on the following link to view a wish list of desired items, including sofas, armchairs, a fridge, washing machine, television and more: http://www.larcheottawa.org/whitehaven-wish-list
Once again, the L'Arche experience shows that when many people of “different abilities” come to live together, they create a warmer, more beautiful world.
A painting from the art exhibit, by Clément Nicolas
Regardless of our gifts or limitations, at the heart of our life together, our ability to recognize and share our different states of vulnerability makes us stronger and more human. L'Arche Ottawa shares this belief with all the other communities that form our global federation. This is what makes L'Arche unique, allowing our communities to serve as beacons of hope all over the world.
To all community leaders:
Feel free to share your community's wonderful stories with us. We want L'Arche Canada's new site to reflect the vitality that fills our homes!
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