In The Media

L’Arche: My Unexpected Friends

By Daniel Hoogsteen • Schulich Leader at University of Toronto
Spring 2019

This past year I reached out to an organization called L’Arche. This organization was founded by Canadian Jean Vanier (1928-2019) in France in 1964. Its mission is to “make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships. Foster an environment in community that responds to the changing dreams and needs of our members, while being faithful to the vision and core values of our founding story. Engage in our diverse cultures, working together toward a more human society.”

L’Arche International operates in 37 countries with over 150 communities. Each home provides a space for its residents - called core members - to live a normal life with the help of House Leaders, Assistants, and volunteers like myself. The organization has a Christian tradition, though core members come from many backgrounds and so L’Arche communities explore faith and spirituality in many ways.

I have spent my time at L’Arche as a volunteer at Gamble house in Toronto. I often help to cook meals, fold laundry, exercise with core members, or simply spend time playing card games and making puzzles. At the house I volunteer at there are five core members. During the week, the core members will attend drama and art programming, spend time with family and friends, and some core members will work a few days a week.

My time volunteering with L’Arche has opened my eyes to some things that I think many students entering post-secondary lose sight of. While it is important to try your best in classes and to study hard, it is even more important to connect with people who make you smile and to tell those around you that you appreciate them. When I returned from vacation on reading week, I was greeted at Gamble house by a “Welcome Home” card that was signed by everyone in the house. It is in these moments at L’Arche that I see what it means to live a life filled with love and appreciation. I now realize that friends can come from anywhere. Every week when I leave Gamble house, I don’t feel as though I have been volunteering, but that I have spent a joyful morning with friends. I believe that everyone should always try to live in a way that they bring joy to others. Whether you’re studying for finals, or have extracurriculars everyday after classes, be sure to find happiness in those little moments spent with friends.