Celebrate the Gift

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!

Journey to the Greatest Gift

In a Gala celebration, L’Arche Daybreak celebrated 50 years of creating the Beloved Community, discovering the sacred in the ordinary stuff of daily life – albeit with magic and space travel thrown in.

From Presence to Citizenship to Community

In order to promote meaningful inclusion, we need to build communities that welcome the gifts and contributions of all their members.

Give People their Place

As we celebrate the 50th of L’Arche in Canada, we’re amplifying the voices of persons with lived experience, sharing insights on creating belonging, diversity and inclusion in Canada.

Building a model of Inclusive Housing in Elmira, Ontario

Over the past decade, L’Arche has been connecting with the Elmira Developmental Support Corporation to learn how they are building “supportive affordable housing” for persons with intellectual disabilities, and to share our vision and experience.

Building Community through Art Discovering our Creative Potential

Hearts and Hands, the creative arts space of L’Arche Antigonish, is promoting creative expression, belonging, and inclusion in Nova Scotia through community arts.

Building Inclusive Housing

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada and offer L’Arche an opportunity for greater impact.

What belonging, diversity, and inclusion mean to me

L’Arche Canada is launching an online reflection to Celebrate the Gift of belonging, diversity, and inclusion by listening to the voices of persons with lived-experience and those who share life with them.

An Innovative Model of Life-Sharing in the Comox Valley

Innovative housing options that promote choice, autonomy, and inclusion are changing the landscape of disability supports in Canada. The Vanier Suites of L’Arche Comox Valley are a new model of shared living renewing the vision of L’Arche.

Presenting… Ross!

Now we’re delighted to introduce you to Ross Moncrieff, the second of the two individuals with intellectual disabilities selected for a session with a professional photographer.

Measuring Impact in the Movement for Inclusion

L’Arche delegates reflect on their experience and learning from the December 3rd Federal Policy Forum on Inclusion titled “What Gets Measured Gets Done.”