Growing as we Learn: The L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative

The L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative is helping L’Arche in Canada to grow – not only in the number of persons supported and the variety of ways in which we share life with them, but also in the ways we discern where we are called to grow and how we go about it.

As in all our priority areas, Growth is helping L’Arche in Canada to become intentional about being a “learning organization” that follows these practices (also from HBR):

  1. Systematic problem solving,
  2. Experimentation with new approaches,
  3. Learning from their own experience and past history, learning from the experiences and best practices of others,
  4. Transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization.

Here are some testimonies of how the Growth Initiative is transforming our communities and the national organization into a learning organization.

L’Arche Sudbury Growth Narrative

By Jen McCauley

Over the years, L’Arche Sudbury has been called to grow many times, usually responding to the needs of our members. In the past year, Lori Vaanholt from the L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative has led our community in a wonderful process of reflecting, of re-walking the path that has brought us to today. As we developed our Growth Narrative, we remembered the spirit of our own founding when most people were young with few physical needs, but with other challenges. Today, we have many members who are aging and that impacts how we live the mission.

Group in Sudbury

We are also inspired by hearing the ways L’Arche is being lived around the Federation; the bricks and mortar of the traditional L’Arche “Foyer” or home, is not the only way to share life and live the mission. With change once again in front of us, we desire to maintain all that has made us who we are, while recognizing that we need to evolve. The community has come to a place where we can envision something different for our community.

Greg Bechard, a housing consultant, spent time in our community to ensure that all members have had their voices heard. He challenged us to think about what our non-negotiables are and how we can include those in our plans going forward. He gave us options to consider and the ability to think outside of ourselves. Greg’s credibility as a leader in the Developmental Services sector, held a lot of weight. People could think about new ways of doing things. There was “buy-in” and his recommendations were embraced.

From this reflection, we developed a Strategic Plan that our community will be able to reference over the next four years to see where we are achieving our goals and where we need to put more energy. For L’Arche Sudbury, this has been the opportunity for “hearing the cry” like Jean Vanier did in founding L’Arche; we are listening and responding to the needs and dreams of people today.

L’Arche Beloeil Innovative Employment Supports

By Marie Frechette

Our development project originated with a critical need among core members in our community rather than with a development need. The reorientation of the CRDI’s mission (Rehabilitation Center for Intellectual Disabilities) lead to loss of employment and internships for many people in our community. The loss of financial compensation for work done by core members was also an important point to consider as part of our development project. We wanted people to receive appropriate financial recognition for their work.

I remember an assistant meeting in September 2015 where we unanimously decided to emphasize, through workshops, our people’s gifts and motivation to work. Our maintenance committee started back then. The Pot-en-Ciel had been created in a similar way the previous year.

Workshop in Beloeil

At first, we didn’t have a specific project in mind – ideas of workshops were developed out of individual gifts and interests and the community’s needs. The garden quickly became a pivotal point in the development project. The project has a strong unifying power in the L’Arche Beloeil community as well as in the broader community. It is a very important key element.

The project’s immediate impact on the community is with core members. We see the effect on people’s well-being when they are offered significant work along with the appropriate support. Financial compensation started in January 2017 and we can already see that it makes a big difference for many people.

The assistants involved in our workshops are very motivated by the workshop projects and proud to contribute to this new development for L’Arche Beloeil. Our community celebrated its 35th anniversary in November 2016. Today we feel that we are experiencing a new founding that is life-giving, unifying and offers us another way to live the mission of L’Arche.

Our project has so far brought us a number of financial, media and human partnerships. We have a growing list of people interested in participating in the garden project (volunteers), groups from the agricultural sector are involved – they are new partners for us. One of the positive impacts is that through these partnerships, the gifts of people with an intellectual disability are at the forefront.

As with Pot-en-Ciel, we wish to welcome workers living outside L’Arche through service agreements with the social affairs network. The arrival of new artists in the creative arts workshop allowed new people to join L’Arche Beloeil in a different way and gave new impetus to Pot-en-Ciel. We hope to do the same with our new workshops thus giving them a broader reach.

Another desired impact relates to worker compensation, as we hope to find a legal solution that would allow other employers to offer compensation to persons with an intellectual disability working in their company. We believe that every working person should receive compensation. Volunteering should be freely agreed to, but the issue is that currently it is imposed on people.

Innovation through Listening in Comox Valley

By Christine Monier

The development process for the Front Desk project happened in a new way for L’Arche Comox Valley (LCV). We had set up several committees related to the I Belong Centre, including an Outreach Centre Visioning committee and the Vanier Suites Residential committee. From the Outreach Centre Visioning committee, emerged the desire to draw more people in, to welcome new individuals. For this, they felt the need for a welcoming presence, a person who would physically embody the welcome the I Belong Centre wanted to extend by greeting, smiling, and being a gracious host to program participants, volunteers and anyone who happened to walk in the door.

The Vanier Suites Residential committee, which included parents of prospective tenants of the Vanier Suites, identified the difficulty they had in accessing the resources they needed – in this case, housing – for the individuals in their care. Their voices at the table were new and effectively broadened the discussion of how LCV could look beyond its own community and address new challenges. This need resonated with the team in our office, where we were hearing from parents and caregivers struggling to navigate the Ministry system and finding themselves increasingly frustrated. Information flow throughout the system was poor.

By looking for the common threads in the work the various committees were doing, we were able to generate a new role that could allow L’Arche Comox Valley to be more outward-looking, more oriented to the needs of our broader community. Combining the posture of hospitality with ideas of advocacy, the Front Desk position was born.

L’Arche London: Innovation through Sharing Learning

By Marietta Drost

It has been a wonderful experience to be part of the growth process with L’Arche Canada. We see the impact of sharing our best practices and learning from the insights and examples of growth within other communities. We are much stronger when we work together sharing our unique community gifts and ideas as a large national body instead of working independently as a sole community.

An example of this would be the environmental scan that an occupational therapist intern did for our community last summer. It had huge impact on our planning as we develop our day programming in our new Gathering Space. The L’Arche Canada growth team shared this insight with other communities in Canada to help them develop their own environmental scans. Sharing our successes as a national body helps us shift our thinking and grow in new ways. It also allows us to be efficient in our practices instead of each community re-creating the wheel. It is exciting to work together and learn from one another.

Having the support and funds to grow our arts program is huge for our community! Providing an art educator to design and coordinate a much richer and meaningful art program in our new Gathering Place will have a huge impact on the quality of programming that we can offer our core members and new day program participants from the wider community. The art educator will be able to develop the therapeutic and creative aspects of the program, deepen our existing connections and widen our circle with new and exciting partnerships in the London community. The art created in our program will also allow us to start looking at new social enterprise opportunities for our community.

Measuring the Impact of Federal Legislation to Promote Inclusion

On December 3, the International Day of Person with Disabilities, L’Arche Canada participated in the 9th annual Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion hosted by the Canadian Association of Community Living and People First of Canada.

Canada accedes to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Accession to the Optional Protocol means that Canadians will have additional recourse to make a complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated.

I Believe in You

“This book brings something new and surprising (...) I hope each reader can discover in a new way what it means to be human.” – Jean Vanier, from the foreword

Accessible Canada Act passed third reading

L’Arche Canada has joined the Federal Accessibility Legislation Alliance (FALA) and supports its recommended changes.

Le Sacrement de la Tendresse (the Sacrament of Tenderness) a new film about Jean Vanier

One of the film’s assets is the enthusiasm of the director, whose strength of conviction is real.

Letter from Jean, October 2018

“90 years old! My God, I can scarcely believe it. I have such a desire to shout out my thanks!”

Louis Pilotte, new National Leader

“From my very first days in L’Arche, I was convinced that I was living an experience that was part of a project for society, part of a vision of the world.”

New Community Leaders in Saint John and Wolfville

… and celebrating Homefires Community Leader Ingrid Blais

Second Reading for Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act (ACA) legislation to ensure a barrier-free Canada

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Fall 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: Support for L’Arche Lithuania

Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Regulations Fall Short

September 6, 2018 – L’Arche Canada supports the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) in urging the federal government to strengthen the system of monitoring Medical Assistance in Dying.

A new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Canada and the Board of Directors present Trish Glennon, as the new Community Leader for L’Arche Daybreak

L’Arche Saskatoon’s 10th Anniversary video is amazing!

To celebrate their first ten years, L’Arche Saskatoon produced a wonderful 8-min video on “What is community?”

Third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada

The Government of Canada has released the third Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada (July 1 to December 31, 2017)

Minister Duncan introduces the proposed Accessible Canada Act

June 20, 2018 – This historic legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities.

L’Arche Canada Newsletter Summer 2018

“Community is built as we become interdependent, humbly recognizing and welcoming our need of one another.”

Letter from Jean, May 2018

“Every day, I take a walk in my little garden, with my eyes looking down because I have to be careful where I walk: this means I notice the primroses.”

L’Arche Canada Foundation’s Spring 2018 Impact Bulletin

Top Story: L’Arche Toronto’s Trying It On For Size (TIFS) project for young people with intellectual disabilities

Summer in the Forest is coming to Canada

“Summer in the Forest is an extraordinarily tender documentary that asks what it means to be human. Here, even the most gentle scenes raise mighty questions.” (New York Times)

The Courage to Listen and Speak Out

As part of the campaign on fundamental values, the L’Arche Canada communications team recently published an online, illustrated account of a person who has lived through abuse. In very simple words, the account expresses a universal reality, the truth that not being heard is a source of immense suffering.

Jean Vanier Interview on CNN

Christiane Amanpour interviews Jean Vanier following the release of Summer in the Forest

First Nations – The Courage to Meet Face to Face

At L’Arche, we are all experimenting with what it means to find “the courage to truly meet difference.” We are on this journey whether we’re encountering a new person, or group, or any culture other than our own.

“Nineteen Paper Cranes”, a Film in Homage to the victims of Sagamihara, Japan

L’Arche International is launching the 9th film in its #AsIAm web series, filmed at L’Arche in Japan, in homage to the 19 victims of the Sagamihara massacre.

Growing as we Learn: The L’Arche Canada Growth Initiative

“A learning organization is an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.” – Harvard Business Review

Leadership Spring Trainings take off

The L’Arche Canada leadership development has entered a major new phase. After years introducing a model based on the core values of L’Arche and tools for reviews and team building, a comprehensive formation and training program – through over 100 online training modules – is being delivered across the country.

Communicating the Work of Outreach and Communications

It has been a challenging year of transition in the L’Arche Canada Outreach and Communications team and its work. As we move forward, new initiatives and new partnerships are emerging that promise increased impact in this important work.

Contributing Our Voices

On February 8, members of L’Arche attended an “in person” session of the accessibility consultation, as several L’Arche folk from other communities had done in their cities.

Meeting with the Minister

On April 6, 2017, representatives of L’Arche Canada met with the Hon. Qualtrough, Minister of Sports and Persons with Disabilities, to share our hopes and concerns – and express our gratitude and support – for new federal, accessibility legislation.

Revelations of Abuse in Trosly, France

In a letter dated March 24, 2015, the Leaders of L’Arche International informed the communities of L’Arche around the world of the results of a canonical (Church) inquiry into accounts of sexual abuse by Père Thomas Philippe who was involved in the beginnings of the first community of L’Arche in Trosly. (Père Thomas died in 1993 so there was no trial.)

Love at Second Sight

AboutFace, an organization providing supports to individuals with facial differences and their families, as well as public awareness and education to increase understanding and acceptance, recently hosted the Toronto premiere of this powerful film that transforms attitudes about appearance and encourages students to accept themselves and others. It’s about difference and belonging, judgment and inclusion.

What does an Accessible Canada mean to you?

The Government of Canada has launched a consultation process that will be open until February 2017. Canadians are encouraged to participate in the consultation by visiting:

L’Arche Canada response to Bill C-14’s

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Physician-Assisted Dying, and as the Federal Government works on drafting legislation on this issue, L’Arche in Canada has re-committed itself to providing the best possible supports for the people with intellectual disabilities in our communities, both in life and as they approach death.

Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart

An excellent new book on Jean Vanier by Michael W. Higgins is available from Novalis.