Presentation of the association:
L’Arche is a non-profit organization originally based on Christian values and established in 1973 in Belgium by Jean Vanier, a philosophy teacher, and André Roberti, a Jesuit. They wanted to offer people suffering from intellectual disabilities, generally being in psychiatric hospitals, a place where human dignity is respected.
L’Arche is an international federation of people with and without disabilities who live and work together in the daily centre and in the houses. The mission of L’Arche is to provide disabled people with quality integration and develop their human skills. The originality of these small houses is based on a family-like atmosphere where disabled people, professionals and volunteers from all origins, social, cultural and philosophical backgrounds, ages and beliefs encounter one another. In addition to this house’s life, some of the disabled people are going to the day centre where activities, such as craftwork, occupational therapies or services to the larger society, are offered.
Type: integration with disabled people
Length: from 3 to 12 months.
The mission of L’Arche is to welcome adults with disabilities. You will realize that disabled people are not only patients, and volunteers are not only caretakers. In L'Arche, what is vital is to aim for a mutual relationship.
We could summarize your roles in L'Arche as such: you are a "friend", but not only. By also having a role of authority, you have a supporting/teaching or ‘educational’ role; therefore, you are "a listener" too.
As part of a team, the volunteer shares his responsibility by:
supporting disabled people in different activities (work, recreation, health, hygiene…) inside and outside the day-care centre;
cooperating in the daily functioning between the houses and the day-care centre by accompanying the people with disabilities from their houses to their workplace, having fun and celebrating together, for instance;
assisting the training related to disabilities, accompaniment (how to cope with violence, affections, feelings, authority, interdependence between different status, etc.).
The volunteers are hosted at the “volunteers’ house”, called “Bethleem”. The volunteers share the common facilities, like the kitchen, dining room and the bathroom, but they have a private room. Sometimes volunteers from other hosting organizations also stay in this house.
Every month, a general allowance and a food allowance are given to the volunteer who is working in the day centre. However, every working day, the volunteer eats a warm meal together with disabled people.
Volunteers working in houses only have a general allowance because the meal is provided every day.