My Unforgettable H.O.P.E. Trip To The L'Arche Community

My Unforgettable H.O.P.E. Trip To The L'Arche Community

"We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love." - Jean Vanier
"We are a Community where people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them live together as family and as a sign of hope to the greater community."

I had the most amazing opportunity to participate in Stonehill College's H.O.P.E. Service Immersion Program; "Honoring our neighbor, Organizing for justice, Practicing peace, Encountering God." Six other Stonehill students and I got accepted to spend a week living in the L'Arche Community in Haverhill, MA. Before going on this trip, we had discussed Community and learned more about it, but none of it compared to what we actually experienced. This opportunity, to each of us, was the most unforgettable and memorable experience of our lives. Our presence impacted the Community, but that is not all: the entire Community impacted us as well.


L'Arche is a place of family, love, welcome and so much more. These houses throughout Haverhill have people with and without disabilities living together purely as family. In 1983, some families came together and created a L'Arche Community. This is a place where their adult children with intellectual disabilities could have a lifelong home after their parents were no longer alive to care for them.

As soon as the seven of us walked into Community, we walked into the homes of families and were welcomed with infinite love and happiness. Every single second spent with the core members and assistants was unforgettable. L'Arche is only an example of what the world should someday come to be. Their mission consists of:

- To Create home where the gifts of people with developmental disabilities are revealed through mutually transforming relationships

- To embrace our diverse cultures working together to build a more human society

- To foster an environment that is inspired by the core values of our founding story: relationships, transformation, and being a sign of hope and a response to the changing needs of our members

Community life in L'Arche consists of independent living or in a shared household for those with intellectual disabilities. There are also part-time or full-time jobs, day programs, services, crafts, etc. "At all times it is a place of support and guidance that adapts as well as possible to the needs of each individual; it is also a place of commitment, to share daily life with the support of assistants and other community members."

L'Arche did so much more than simply give us unforgettable memories. Community life there taught us what it means to truly love. I've never set foot in such a welcoming community. The moment I walked into any of the households, I felt immediately welcomed and as if I were part of their family, which by the end of the week, I considered all of us to be.

I could go on for ages describing what this trip consisted of, what projects we took charge of and our memorable interactions with everyone there, but even all of my detailed descriptions wouldn't do L'Arche justice. There are simply too many amazing words to say; the other students who encountered this journey with me couldn't agree more, but we try our best to put it into words:

"What I admired more than anything about the L'Arche Community was their sense of mindfulness and their ability to value everyone and everything." - Sam MacFarlane, Class of 2020

"What I learned most from our experience at L'Arche is to be present and to find joy in the little things." - Mackenzie Mayes, Class of 2018

"The L'Arche Community emphasized the importance of family, being there for one another, and for being present" - Julia Adams, Class of 2020

"The L'Arche Community taught me how to love." - Michaela Brown, Class of 2017

"L'Arche is a truly loving community that celebrates each individual." - Emily Rowland, Class of 2019

This was an experience that will not only stick with me forever, but it also changed my dreams and actions for the future. L'Arche taught us many lessons; however, the most important thing that we got out of this experience is the hope that someday the world should be like the L'Arche Community; we should all strive to make this possible.

"Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed." - Jean Vanier, Founder of L'Arche

Cover Image Credit: Self

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2. Treat yourself

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10 Places That Will Make Russia Your Next Vacation Destination

Explore the famous landmarks that play a vital role in Russia's history.

Russia...the underrated and often forgotten tourist destination. Places such as Italy (home to the Roman empire), France (the site of the Eiffel Tower), and England (the famous Big Ben and red telephone booths) are where millions flock to on their summer holidays. So how does some new inspiration for a vacation sound?

Picture this: Moscow, the city of golden domes visible from every street, with brick Kremlin fortress standing for almost a thousand years. St. Petersburg, the northern Venice of the former capital, home to the festival of White Nights, with the sun setting at 1 AM.

1. St. Basil's Cathedral

Built in 1555, St. Basil's is Russia's most famous church and the face of the country. Located on the Red Square in Moscow, its architecture and color scheme is unrivaled, as it was designed to resemble a flaming torch spiraling up to the sky. What makes it so unique is that it is actually nine churches in one, each chapel leading to another in a series of winding staircases and narrow hallways.

2. The Moscow Kremlin

Built at the end of the 1400s, the Moscow Kremlin serves as a fortress, surrounding five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Walls with their towers, the central one serving as a clock tower that faces the Red Square. It also serves as the official residence of Russia's president.

3. The Cathedral Square

The square of five cathedrals, the oldest one dating back to 1326, is located inside the Moscow Kremlin. The Cathedral Square has served as the site of coronations and funeral processions of all the Russian tsars of Moscow in history. Today, the inauguration ceremony of Russia's presidents take place in this famous place.

4. Moscow City


Looking for a break from a long day of touring? Head over to the modern business district of Moscow City. Home to offices, financial districts, and malls, it is home to the second tallest building in Europe and the unique spiraling Imperia Tower pictured above. The mall is the perfect place to try authentic Georgian cuisine, do some shopping and relax.

4. Palace of the Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich

Built in 1667 and located outside of Moscow in Kolomonskoye, the palace of the Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich consists of 26 buildings attached through a maze of winding corridors. Without a doubt, the inside will leave you breathless.

5. The Kremlin in Izmailovo

Built in 2007, the Izamilovo Kremlin serves as a wooden complex consisting of a church and a cultural complex, modeled after fairytale descriptions of old Russia. Here you can have a laugh in museums dedicated to bread, folk art and even vodka, and watch multiple weddings take place here in one day.

6. Peterhof

Located outside of St. Petersburg, Peterhof sits on the Gulf of Finland. Laid out on Peter the Great's Orders, it is a complex of palaces, fountains, and gardens known as "The Russian Versailles". The grounds were the king's family's summer residence as to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city during that time of year. From its endless fountains to its perfect location on the gulf, Peterhof never fails to amaze visitors.

7. The State Hermitage Museum

Located inside St. Petersburg's Winter Palace complex, the State Hermitage Museum is a museum of endless hallways consisting of everything from one of Da Vinci's paintings, historical artifacts to an Orthodox chapel as well. Bring your walking shoes and be prepared to spend several hours walking through its breathtaking beauty.

8. The Splitting of the Drawbridges

One of the most famous features of St. Petersburg is the series of the opening of the several drawbridges, the first one beginning at 1 AM. Why so late, you ask? Up north, the sun sets very late in the summer, so therefore passengers begin their boat tours at midnight and take a cruise through the city to watch the different colored bridges open up before their eyes.

9. The Catherine Palace

Located in the town of Pushkino in the Tsarskoye Selo, the palace was built as a summer residence for Catherine I. The complex consists of sprawling land, gardens and a well-kept property, making it a popular tourist destination.

10. The Peter and Paul Fortress

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the fortress was St. Petersburg's original citadel in the shape of a star. It is also a part of the St. Petersburg State Museum of History today. In the time of the Russian revolution, it also held prisoners. You can walk into their former cells and take a tour of their former living quarters, as well as the church in the other building.

Although 10 places could hardly capture the timeless and unique beauty of Russia, it gives tourists a new destination to add to their bucket list. The largest country in the world has much for its own people to explore as well.

Cover Image Credit: Personal Photo

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