BECOME AN ASSISTANT

L’Arche Assistants

We call those who share life in the communities Assistants. 

Assistants are volunteers or salaried employees depending on the role, responsibility and employment law of the country. There is a long tradition in some countries to send volunteers abroad through volunteer-sending organizations. LINK to See International Experience program.

Create a world where everybody belongs!

 

This is what you can expect:

  • You live in a/one of the L’Arche homes with other Assistants and members with a disability.
  • You support people with disabilities in all dimensions of life through daily living and accompaniment
  • Generally you are asked to make a commitment for one year.
  • All L’Arche communities have a spiritual dimension. We welcome people of all faiths and those with no particular faith. 
  • We expect assistants to be open to and supportive of other’s spirituality and to join in our celebrations.
  • Be prepared for ongoing training and formation. In most countries L’Arche is a registered charity and must meet legally set standards in professional care.
  • Experience daily life with people who are different to you. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also challenging.  

Friendship with people with intellectual disabilities shape our way of being in the world.

 

Ready to join!

L’Arche is a life changing experience of self-discovery and personal growth in mutual relationships, leadership and personal spiritual journey. Contact one of our recruitment offices shown on the map below or visit our News Section and click Employment Opportunities in the categories or our LinkedIn page.

 

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  • “Just do it now or never.”

    Testimonial  by Julia Huber, assistant

    And so Julia Huber took a deep breath and dived into the life of L’Arche Mexico! For a young German woman with no Spanish, no travel experience beyond Europe, and whose personal knowledge of L’Arche was limited to a one day visit to L’Arche Tecklenburg, that took a lot of guts. “That visit gave me a good idea of the spirit of a L’Arche home.” 

    With her temporary resident visa arranged through her German solidarity organization, Julia contacted the Mexico City community leader: “My lack of Spanish made this contact really difficult and in some way frightening as well. But she connected me with some US assistants there, who gave me good advice about luggage, as well as sending some photos so I could form a first impression. I felt really welcomed from the beginning.” 

    Julia finally arrived in Mexico on a year’s commitment in August 2016. “But on the way back from the airport to the house I was definitely doubting my decision: I wouldn't be able to communicate with the core members and the team! So what was I thinking? However, from the very beginning, the core members were open and interested and they gave me the feeling that I'm in the right place and wanted here. One of the core members prayed almost every night for me and my Spanish, not as much as a reproach but more as a mutual concern. 10 months later, I know my original decision was the right one! There are way more (and sometimes better) ways to communicate then the spoken language, which I had the luck to learn more and more during my time here.

    Culture shocks and surprises

    “I was amazed, and to be honest, frustrated by the big difference between the German and Mexican approach to time, structure and authority: “scheduled meetings here rarely start on time, while some obligatory appointments come out of nowhere. In general, I find there is a big lack of structure and I miss getting clear feedback and announcements. But somehow it still works!”

    The second culture shock was that, “in Mexican society, a person with a learning disability is treated like a child. In Germany, equality and self-determination are big themes.”

    What helped?

    Having two assistants in the community from the US helped a lot, as they were also adjusting to Mexican culture: we regularly shared our shocks and surprises. Unexpectedly, I have discovered how much I identify as a European! That’s a theme I continue to reflect on…”

    How does your presence help the community?

    “We are both learning: I think it helps the community to get a different view on things, and see other possibilities and needs. Now I am here 11 months already, our relationships are more built on trust, equality and common experience. I can see what change relationships like this bring for the community life and the connection between core member and assistant. And just being present in the daily routine also helps: more assistants means more options for creating free time and individual projects. For me, this shows what community is about. Supporting each other in our personal and common growth by giving backing in the ways we can. I'm thankful to experience this backing in receiving and providing day by day.”

    Advice to potential international volunteers?

    “If the possibility of becoming an international volunteer crosses your path, I would say take your chance. It comes for some reason and it's worth it. I feel really blessed to have had the chance to come and share life here in the community of El Arca de México. Of course, many times I catch myself thinking, “what the hell am I doing here?” or “I don’t belong here,” but at the same time I'm convinced that I'm supposed to be here with all the difficulties and doubts. If you are open, interested and willing to share yourself, your qualities and areas to grow, that is all you need! Go for it!”

    Questions

    If you believe in the creative human potential of all people with an intellectual disability, that is exactly the right starting point for working at L'Arche. Be part of the unfolding story! E­mail us your question to dir.rh@larche.org

     

  • Explore our international volunteer opportunities

    Join one of our communities worldwide! L’Arche is a life-changing experience of self-discovery and personal growth in mutual relationships. If you believe in the creative human potential of all people with an intellectual disability, that is exactly the right starting point for joining L'Arche.

    We invite you to explore our international volunteer opportunities:

     

    Questions

    Overwhelmed by the variety of possibilities to join L’Arche! No current vacancies available that match your profile? No problem. We can guide you through this.

    E­mail us your question to dir.rh@larche.org


    Create a world where everybody belongs!

     

  • No “right” way to live L’Arche

    Testimonial by Kate Schulte, assistant

    “I had to recognize that there is no “right” way to live L’Arche – if the community is loving the core members and helping them to recognize their gifts, then it’s L’Arche.” This is Kate Schulte, from L'Arche USA, who has taken a year out to be a solidarity assistant in L'Arche Mymensingh, Bangladesh.

    For Kate, living in L'Arche far away from her home country has been the catalyst for many new and creative thoughts about life: “I also had to recognize that I don’t know much about anything. My sense of value and ethics come predominantly from the West. When I suddenly I found myself in a place that thought very differently, I was confused.  It wasn’t enough to immerse myself in community life – I needed/need to immerse myself in the culture here. I needed to “seek to understand”-  I started to read books by Indian philosophers, I listened to Hindi music, and most importantly I listened to the stories and perspectives of those around me. I had so much to learn and I still have so much to learn!”

     

    Settling into a new culture: surprises and shocks…

    India: Upon arrival in Asha Niketan, I was swept away into the magical world of India. There were strange smells, lights and so many people!  I was overwhelmed; it was so different and I felt so out of place. There have been many moments during my journey in L’Arche where I have felt inadequate, but I had never felt it with such intensity as I did in my first two months in India. I didn’t know how to do anything: toileting, cleaning, praying, dishwashing, communicating – everything was different. I was different. In the beginning, I felt so unhelpful. I felt like a baby again. I had to relearn everything. But for me it wasn’t hard to adjust to the food, toileting or bathing differences – it was hard to adjust to how differently the community lived L’Arche and how little control I had over anything. If Brother Roger (of Taizé) would have come to the community I would have screamed at him “I dared to give my life to others (or so I thought) but not only am I not finding meaning, I am sort of miserable!” But, then, in my loneliness, joy started to edge its way in. 

    I realized that my inability to be helpful or in control, allowed me to understand what it meant to “give my life for others”. It meant being grateful for each moment. It meant forgiving my own inadequacy and leaving it. It meant loving those around me, even if I could only show my love with a smile. Mostly it meant, “seeking first to understand and then to be understood.” My preconceived notions of L’Arche, disability and humanity did not matter. Instead of letting them control my experience, I had to let them go and accept who I was and what the community was in that moment.
     
    Bangladesh: When I finally made it to the L’Arche Bangladesh community, I was welcomed so beautifully by all the members. I instantly felt loved and began my commitment with such determination to hold close those changes that had begun in me in Asansol. But, oh, how quickly I forget every lesson! It seems like I am always having to re-learn lessons over and over...It wasn’t long before I started fretting about my role and my purpose, getting discouraged because I still haven’t learned Bangla and began to withdraw into myself. But the members of community keep calling me back into the present moment.

     

     
    Bappi, refuses to let me drift into myself, by asking me a million times “Mamma, Eta ki” (what’s that?) and then tilting his head and smiling in such an irresistible way I have to give up feeling down. Rohim runs to the door to greet me, catching my hand and swinging it as if he had known me his whole life.  Shopno Nir (Dream House) makes me forget about language learning deficiencies by declaring  an “English dinner” in my honor. Asha Nir (House of Hope), tells me to come over “immediately” any time I miss my family. Pushpo Nir (Blossom House) is letting me live with them instead of just being a “visitor.”

    I am so grateful for this journey. It has taken many unexpected turns but I am learning how to “give my life” and, more importantly, how to just be.

    Lessons for life

    • All the members of Asansol and Mymensingh have taught me how to love better. They have challenged my views on culture, L’Arche and religion and helped me learn how to live in an interreligious community.
    • The core members have let me in, accepted me as an equal, even though I am different. All of the members have experienced some really hard things and for many L’Arche is the first home they have ever had. As such, many carry deep wounds but still they love.
    • The assistants have taught me how to be open, live in the moment and forgive. They have also opened up their hearts to me and have become good friends.

    How has your presence helped the community?

    I think much in the same way that I helped in Chicago and Jacksonville. I have gifts and weaknesses and I bring those to this community. But I am “extra” unique, in that I am from a different culture, this cross-culture exchange of ideas can be really cool and I “think”  I have helped bring some good things from my culture and I have been able to pick up some good things about Bangladeshi/ Indian culture that someday I will bring home with me.

    Advice to anyone thinking of becoming a solidarity assistant

    • Start to learn the language before you leave. Many people, especially in India, speak English; however, no one could understand me! I talk very fast (I am learning to slow down) but I had forgotten how to speak directly. I had not realized how often I used idioms and unnecessary words. I had to clean up my English and learn to speak “International English.”
    • I think there is a nonverbal language that we use in L’Arche and I have certainly entered into relationship with many people even though we can barely speak. BUT verbal communication is important! Oh how I long to speak Bengali!!
    • Find people to accompany you. This could be another volunteer abroad. This could be the former community leader at home.
    • Don’t worry about your time being short. Try to live as fully in the community as you can!

    Questions

    If you believe in the creative human potential of all people with an intellectual disability, that is exactly the right starting point for working at L'Arche. Be part of the unfolding story! E­mail us your question to dir.rh@larche.org

  • Powerfully touched by the differences

    Testimonial by James Schreiner

    “Here I am in a culture far removed from my own,” says James Schreiner about his time supporting in Asha Niketan (as L'Arche is called in India) Chennai, India, “and yet a smile is the same the world over: I love seeing Franci Akka smile. When I am with her, I often think of Linda from L’Arche Erie and the gifts they share. She brings joy to us all.”

     

     

    But James has been powerfully touched by the differences as well: “Sometimes it makes me cry, knowing that some members of L’Arche in India were once living on the streets. Najim, for example: The police found him on the streets and brought him to Asha Niketan. Asha Niketan has given back his dignity. Now Najim welcomes many to his home. He works in the garden during the day and is often near the main gate to open it whenever someone arrives. Throughout the day, Najim often shakes people’s hands, looks into their eyes, and grins as if to say, ‘I am grateful you are here.’”

    The whole experience is clearly a broadening one, on many levels: “Here in India, spirituality is really woven into daily life; for instance we pray together before breakfast and dinner; I am used to going to mass, but here I have been with Najim to visit the mosque, and with other community members to Hindu temples. This is new for me.”

     

     

    One thing that isn’t new, of course, is the feeling of mutuality, which is built into the relationships. But here again, there is something to learn: “I have come to appreciate how mutuality can be experienced, even though we speak different languages, I am grateful for the gift of true two-way tenderness we share each day.” (Speaking of languages, James soon found himself giving English lessons, at the request of community members.)

     

     

    James used to be an assistant in Washington, DC community, USA. With 5 years’ experience there, he came to Chennai in response to an invitation from Rajeevan, National Leader of Asha Niketan India. He met Rajeevan while on a 3-month Solidarity exchange at Asha Niketan Asansol, India. He seized the opportunity with both hands, starting in November 2016. His experience has made him keen to encourage others to follow in his footsteps: “it is so uplifting to know L'Arche International hopes to welcome more assistants and volunteers to embrace solidarity experiences. I am beyond grateful, and more than happy to support these efforts in any way I can.” 

    Watch #As I Am from L'Arche India

    Questions

    If you believe in the creative human potential of all people with an intellectual disability, that is exactly the right starting point for working at L'Arche. Be part of the unfolding story! E­mail us your question to dir.rh@larche.org

  • Testimonial by Noelia Grifell

    It was her passion for Indian culture that led Noelia to volunteer for a year’s mission in the community of Nandi Bazar, after her time as an assistant in L'Arche in Spain. Noelia prepared well, partly by attending the L'Arche mission programme. What she couldn’t have expected was the invitation to act as interim leader: Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar, going through a time of transition, needed a person able to quickly settle in to the role and build up local leadership capacity. And Noelia has risen amazingly well to the challenge. Her prior experience in Spain has helped a lot, as has her professional qualification in Business Administration, but what makes it work is Noelia’s sensitivity and respect for the local cultural context.


     
    “This experience is opening my mind,” says Noelia. “I worked in a Spanish community but these two experiences are very different. It is changing my preconceived ideas of my own culture. What I really appreciate here is the simplicity, humility and joy of daily life. We really do live in the present moment and need to learn to love that. Prayer is truly woven into daily life here, and I am learning a lot about sharing life with people of different religions and respecting each of them, whether Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Day by day, they help me to integrate in their culture and local customs.”
     
    All these learnings (and some more) are very important for Noelia. As she says herself, “I am growing up as a person – as a better person, too!” All these things are helping Noelia to build up her leadership capacities. “It is very important to understand their culture, customs, how they are working, how they are living, etc; and then see what I can do for this community, if I can do any change or improve something according to my experience and knowledge around special needs and health and hygiene.”


     
    As in L'Arche across the world, it is the mutuality of relationships that stands out: “I play with core members and I make jokes; we go to the beach together every Sunday: we are, at heart, the same: we seek to become closer, and create friendship together.”

     

    Questions

    If you believe in the creative human potential of all people with an intellectual disability, that is exactly the right starting point for working at L'Arche. Be part of the unfolding story! E­mail us your question to dir.rh@larche.org