Celebrate the Gift

In October 2019, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time in the next 12 months to share our stories in many creative ways. L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, celebrating the gifts of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

By John Guido

The June heat and humidity were ferocious but couldn’t dampen the joy of the many family members and friends gathered to celebrate Helen Humphries’ 60th birthday in the back garden of her home on Church Street in Richmond Hill. As the punch flowed, old friendships were renewed and new connections made over funny and touching stories of the woman we were celebrating.

Helen with friends at her party

Helen was the first woman with an intellectual disability welcomed to L’Arche in Canada by Steve Newroth and his wife Ann, Helen’s niece, who began Daybreak in October 1969. She was a true original. She created passionate relationships with a small circle of family and friends while charming her way through community life both in L’Arche and in her neighbourhood. The rules rarely applied to Helen.

Helen with her birthday cake

The most extraordinary thing about her 60th was that Helen loved it. For years, she had banned her birthday. But as dementia began to steal her memory, Helen forgot her opposition and enjoyed the day – it was a birthday miracle! It would be the last real celebration of Helen’s life before her funeral a few years later, another occasion for people to come together, tell stories, and celebrate a unique life well lived.

The Power of Celebration

In L’Arche, we love to celebrate. Celebrations involve people coming together, sharing food and drink, music, laughter, and of course stories that remind us of who we are and why we belong together. Birthdays and anniversaries are the opportunity to celebrate the gifts of the person and remind them that they have something special to offer. Holidays and gatherings have their own rituals that give meaning to our common life. Funerals are celebrations of life that remind us what really matters.

L’Arche Canada celebration in Halifax

Community anniversaries are also an opportunity to remember with joy and gratitude. For the next 12 months, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak and of L’Arche In Canada. We will take time throughout the year to gather and share our stories in many creative ways. We will also share them in social media and on through photos, videos, stories, and articles by our members with and without disabilities, friends, and partners across Canada.

Creating a world where everyone belongs!

Throughout this 50th year, L’Arche Canada will put a spotlight on the ways our vision and values respond to our world today, on what we are learning within L’Arche and with our partners that promotes the vision and practice of belonging, diversity, and inclusion.

50th anniversary logo

Celebrate the Gift of Belonging

Research shows what L’Arche has long known: people are happier – even live longer – when they enjoy friendships, strong social networks, and belonging in communities where they are known and valued. We are better together.

Celebrate the Gift of Diversity

L’Arche members have learned that deep encounter and listening with respect to the ‘other’ helps us discover that we are all imperfect and that we are all gifted in various wonderful and necessary ways. Difference makes our lives richer.

Celebrate the Gift of Inclusion

L’Arche members are making a difference in the wider community. We know that when persons with disabilities take their place at the table, they thrive. And they change the table, helping make it more just, vibrant, and compassionate for everyone.

You’re Invited!

We have much to be grateful for in our life together and our mission for the world. L’Arche can be serious, yet we know that celebration (like forgiveness) is at the heart of community. In L’Arche, we celebrate every chance we get.

So, in our gatherings and postings leading to October 2019, let’s celebrate. Let’s make art and music, sing, dance, eat and drink, tell stories, and have fun together. Let’s widen the circle, welcoming back old friends and making new ones.

Let’s welcome the spirit of new life for the next 50 years!

A Hero Behind the Scenes

Beyond firefighters, medical staff, social workers and police officers, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that there are even more heroes among us. Truck drivers, grocery store clerks, cooks and couriers now rightfully hold an esteemed place in our collective consciousness as they put their health at risk to keep society functioning.

From Hyderabad to Lethbridge Who Would’ve Thought?

After Roop Chittineni finished high school in his hometown of Hyderabad, India he moved to Southern Ontario to pursue a degree in Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo. He liked exercising and thought that if he learned more about the human body he could use that knowledge to elevate everyone’s life experience.

Memory Box: Pinewood Floorboards

What does a set of 1940s floorboards have to teach us about COVID living?

Stepping Up

When Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer stated that non-medical masks limit the transmission of COVID-19, L’Arche Saskatoon’s artsy residents also got to work. Out came the fabrics, scissors, thread and needles. Brock wanted to contribute using two of his greatest assets: his feet.

A Light Ahead

The social distancing caused by the pandemic has been trying. Thankfully, aside from those who have donated their time, money and ingenuity to help L’Arche, there are the health care workers, grocery store clerks and all those on the front line who are helping the L’Arche community get through this crisis. With their help, it won’t be long until the Gathering Place opens again and the community starts making new memories.

Second Life

Kris first met Joanna in L’Arche London, Ontario. She encouraged Kris to join L’Arche, and he did. They lived and worked side-by-side for six years until Kris moved to Nova Scotia. Still, they managed to see each other a few times a year and occasionally called one another about matters of life and faith. But this call was different.

The Gift of Dance

Dance is a profound gift; it’s an artistic expression, a mood enhancer, a workout, a surefire way to impress a date and a form of magic. A dancer can transform into a flower, a lion or their favourite pop star. Above all, dance is an act of joy. (We dare you to wiggle around for a minute and not feel happier than you were before.) The gift of dance, and all it provides, has found its way into L’Arche.

Life’s Tough Obstacles

It was late June. A park in Edmonton had been reserved. Food was stacked on picnic tables. Local students of all ages were dressed in taekwondo uniforms, preparing for their annual Break-a-thon. The Break-a-thon is an innovative fundraiser where martial arts students showcase their skills by breaking boards. For each broken board, donations are pledged and raised for L’Arche.

Taking our place in the inclusion movement

It is an important time for the accessibility and inclusion movement in Canada and the world, and L’Arche Canada is developing our capacity to take our place.

Silent encounter with the “man who repairs women”

Denis Mukwege begs us empathetically to remain attentive, to listen deeply to what is inherent in our human condition: our sensitivity and vulnerability.