Jeanine, Luise and Jana, three young full-time volunteers who arrived from Germany in the autumn of 2013, tell us about their experience within our community.
Hi, my name’s Janine, I’m 19 years old and I come from Hagen, a town in north-west Germany, near Cologne. My favourite hobby is sport: basketball, jogging and, since L’Arche, cycling. Apart from that, I like listening to music, going to the cinema with my friends, into town, etc. And I like visiting other countries. I have been a full-time volunteer at L’Arche Namur, at the Bartrès home since 1 September. I decided to do a year volunteering before starting university, to gain a different human experience. Social work seemed the best opportunity to get to know people whose culture and mentality are different. As soon as I arrived at L’Arche, I felt right at home, and I really enjoy day-to-day life with the core members. I have had a lot of warm and happy moments. And what’s more, all the everyday challenges, big and small, are enriching, and I am curious to see what will happen in the days to come...
Hi, my name’s Luise and I’m from Essen-Werden, in mid-west Germany. During my free time, I love sport and music. Before coming to Belgium, I had finished studying humanities. I wanted a new experience between school and university. I also wanted to do social work and discover a field I didn’t know. I’ve been here almost three months and it’s a real pleasure to be a part of L’Arche!
Hello! My name’s Jana and I am the new full-time volunteer at the Le Tournesol residential home in Namur. I’m twenty years old and I come from Heidenheim in the south of Germany. But last year I lived in London where I also worked with people with disabilities. I’m going to share my life with L’Arche for the next few months. After almost two months, I can already say that I’m very happy. I have made new friends and also learnt a new language, French. I would like to thank the entire Namur community for their warm and open welcome and I look forward to the time that we will be spending together !
Stanislas and Nicolas, students at the Institut JEAN XXIII in Jemelle tell us about a particularly enriching experience!
It was Tuesday 5 November 2013. We went to Le Tournesol where we were warmly welcomed. We met the residents, truly exceptional people with a lot of love to give. During our stay we discovered the many activities (bread-making, gardening, etc.) on offer.
The solidarity between them made a profound impression on us. We enjoyed three days of discovery and new experiences that were very enriching and offered us a new perspective on the world around us.
We really feel like we have found a second family.
We would like to offer a warm thanks to the members of staff and all of the core members. We will never forget our stay!
Angèle worked as a full-time volunteer at the residential home Bartrès for four years. She tells us about her experience.
I arrived at Bartrès, one of Jean Vanier’s L’Arche homes, in September 2009. The only thing I knew was that it was a community that supports people with intellectual disabilities. It was totally new for me. Would I have the experience to supervise people? Would the people accept me?
Those were just some of my concerns, but the welcome, the love and the community spirit, the family way of life that you gave me helped me overcome those fears. I gained experience over time and I’ve now been here for four years. It has been a great journey with many amazing experiences despite the emotional ups and downs on certain days. I wanted to continue to share and gain other experiences with you but I now have other demands on my daily life. I am leaving, but a beautiful friendship has begun and will continue.
Thank you for your support, encouragement and most of all for having accepted me at L’Arche.
I would like to thank you for these three outstanding days spent with you.
Thanks to my retirement, I have been able to meet new people who have helped me grow and I will not forget you in a hurry.
I am sad to leave and I sincerely hope that our paths will cross again someday.
I will never forget: Rita for her daily dose of humour, Natalie for her generosity and her drawing skills, Therese for her generosity and her smile, Martine for her motivation in everything she organises and her kindness; Jean for his humour and joy, David for his broad grin and his passion for music, Noël for his humour and his passion for buses, Judicaël for his openness and his assurance, and Viviane for all the help and kindness.
In short, my heartfelt thanks for having welcomed me at Le Tournesol. I wish you all the best for the future.
We are Jonathan Morimont and Ysaline de Wilde and we are in our final year at the Collège du Christ-Roi. For its final year students, the college organises social and religious retreats.
We both chose the social retreat as we thought it would be interesting to spend time with people who are different, be they homeless or with disabilities.
For this retreat week, we were sent to Le Lum’çon even though it wasn’t our first choice.
We arrived on Monday and had no experience with people with disabilities. We didn’t know how the week would go, what would be the difficulties, and what contacts we would have.
We were quickly welcomed and everyone came to talk to us. It was then that we realised that the week was going to be great and our fears were quickly allayed. Contact and exchanges were quickly made. We formed close bonds and had some great experiences with them.
All the laughter, smiles, emotions have made us want to spend more time with them, to spend more than a week at Le Lum’çon, to stay in contact. And after talking with those who worked in other associations, we realised that our experience was unique.
That is why we have come out of this experience bigger, stronger and with the desire to come back.
Ysaline and Jonathan, during their civic service retreat
L’Arche. A destination that we were worried about to start with? We didn’t really know what our reaction would be to people who are different.
For several days, we had many questions... What is life like there? Will we integrate? What would our role be?
Luckily, our initial contact immediately reassured us. Sara, Vincent, Bérengère … all offered us a warm welcome in their own way.
And we were very quickly immersed in the extraordinary life of the community.
This community that is already like a family to us.
It was mainly during the time we spent in the homes that we learnt so many things that we would never have imagined. Some surprising people moved us, especially by their simple way of looking at life. We truly experienced a unique relationship with them, one that is so unique to people who are different, but who are in fact not so different as all that.
This experience was enriching. We realised how lucky we were: they gave us so much, did we change their daily life a little too? We really hope so, as do we hope to come back to this amazing community.
Véronique and Clémence, students at the Institut du Christ Roi in Ottignies