Seeking to create friendship together
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.”
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.
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