L’Arche is an international network of people with and without intellectual disabilities who live together in homes. There are 137 communities across the world, including the two in D.C. that we had the privilege of getting to know. Inside a L’Arche house, it feels less like a program and more like a household full of extended family members with a mish-mash of cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, ages and intellectual capacities. Core members (those with disabilities) and assistants (those without disabilities) share meals, walk to work together, laugh at inside jokes, work through conflicts and serve one another with a level of selflessness and gentleness that amazed us. One of the community members, Bob Jacobs, explained that, “In community there’s no us and them- there’s we. So I’m not taking someone somewhere; they’re not coming with me. We’re going together.”
It would have been easy to make this story about how the L’Arche assistants are heroes who demonstrate incredible dedication to the core members. But it quickly became clear that this isn’t at all how they view themselves. Megan Herron and the other assistants believe they benefit as much or more than the core members through their relationships. So we decided to make the story about the life transformation that happened in Megan through her friendship with Eileen, one of the core members.
“Eileen has taught me a lot,” Megan told us. “She gave me the space to work through a problem and not feel like I have to have all the answers right away. She allowed me to grow in my confidence.”