Last Thursday, my housemates and I visited the community of L’Arche, which in French, translates into The Ark (as in Noah’s Ark). Upon walking through the front doors of this 3-story community located in the neighborhood of Austin, I initially felt the safe secure place of diversity this translation strives to achieve. We were greeted by several of the community members and instructed to go down to the basement where we would be sharing a meal together while learning more about L’Arche.
L’Arche is an international federation of communities of men and women with developmental disabilities coming together to share their lives by creating a home together. The current community is composed of 4 core members, persons with disabilities, and 4 assistants, those who live and share life with them. L’Arche Chicago is just one of the 127 communties founded worldwide.
Community service is one thing, but 24 hours, 7 days a week service, which now becomes living is a beautiful expression of solidarity. The core members and assistants invited us to find out what daily life is like for this community. A typical days entails core members going to a day porgram or to work in the local community while assistants tend to ordinary household duties and organizing. However everyone shares the household responsiblities as much as possible. Some may be very good at things like vacuuming whole others may be great at folding laundry, while almost everyone likes to cook. All of these tasks help memembers take ownership and responsibility over the community they have crafted. L’Arshe emhasizes building relationships, rather than completing tasks. Shared dinner is an important time to culitivate these realtionships while everyone sits down to eat, share their day and make communal decisions.
L’Arshe is just one example of the other communities in Chicago that serve people living with developmental and learning disabilities. Here are a couple other places:
***Anixter Center believes that building a sense of community and developing a feeling of ownership are essential for a person to learn and grow. Anixter has providing residential services to people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, physical disabilities and sensory disabilities. The Centers operates 22 small-and-medium-sized residences on Chicago’s North Side and in Evanston and Lake County, Illinois.
***Misericordia Heart of Mercy supports 550 children and adults with mild to profound developmental disabilities from all racial, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. Misericordia has a wide range of programs on our campus and in the community at-large to meet the diverse needs of persons with developmental disabilities.
Photos courtesy of L’Arche