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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12 Necessary Components For A Memorable Road Trip

How to treasure “being on the road, again”

Staying in one place doesn’t suit me. I love being able to travel to new places for new sights, sounds, and smells. Road trips are a perfectly cost-effective way to get away from home without having to leave the country and still experience something new. I recently took a very memorable road trip to Yosemite.

Between that and my semi-frequent road trips from the Bay Area to LA, you could say I’m an expert at planning and executing phenomenal road trips. In my experience, the following 12 things are what will make or break any road trip you take.

1. A meticulously crafted itinerary

Which you can disregard whenever necessary, but having one to start out with is always a good idea.

2. A bangin’ playlist

Specifically, one that is catered towards your final destination. A bangin’ playlist should take into account the weather, the time of year, the merriment of the occasion, etc.

3. Comfy pants

You might not need the elastic waistband because you’ll be eating three dinners, but no good ever comes from wearing tight pants that pinch on a 10-hour road trip.

4. More snacks than you think you’ll need


5. The “Trash” bag

You might not always start out with one, but you definitely always end up with one.

6. Water

Maybe not the most thrilling addition to the road trip, however having plenty of water is handy not only for staying hydrated but for increasing the number of pitstops you might make for bathroom breaks. This could lead to some pretty interesting unexpected side stories you’ll be telling to all your friends and family when you come home.

7. Mind numbing boredom

This usually sets in around the third or fourth hour on the road.

8. A pit stop for ice-cream

This helps to alleviate the aforementioned “mind-numbing boredom” and is a welcome addition to a road trip at any time of day. (Plus, this baby totally gets me.)

9. License plate games

Or riddles, or guessing games, or twenty questions. Basically, these save your life if you ever get carsick and can’t read or don't want to waste data scrolling through Instagram.

10. Walking shoes

The best part of any road trip is the time you spend off the road.

11. A camera

To document all of the good fun. Photos help so that you won’t forget any of the little details (This speaks more to it being remembered.)

12. Good company

If you had bad company, you wouldn’t want it to be memorable in the first place.

And finally, I will leave you with a nugget of wisdom, a Public Service Announcement so to speak: clean your car immediately BEFORE AND AFTER you go. You can thank me later.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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A Play-By-Play Of Your Vacation Routine, On Island Time

Island time is the best time zone to be in.

As much as you try to not be on a schedule on vacation, you eventually develop a daily vacation routine. You could claim you just sit back and relax all day, but where is the fun in that?

Your daily vacation routine may not be as hectic as your usual routine, but you cannot ignore the fact that it is still a "routine." Obviously... being on "island time" is the best time zone to be in.

8:00 a.m.

Resort wear is minimalistic. First thing in the morning, all you have to do is simply put on a bathing suit and throw a cute cover-up over it. If you feel you even need shoes, just wear flip flops! The best part of the morning vacation routine is: NO MAKEUP or HAIRDOS necessary! However, sunscreen application is vital at this point in the day.

8:30 a.m.

BREAKFAST TIME! Hopefully, your resort has a buffet because everyone knows that breakfast buffets are the best type of buffets. If you are in South America or the Caribbean, DO NOT HESITATE to have beans and rice for breakfast. Your taste buds will never experience tastier beans.

Also, take advantage of the fresh island fruits. Do not be scared to try a new fruit you have never seen or heard of before. Although you may enjoy the passion fruit iced tea at Starbucks, have you ever tried a real passion fruit?

9:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.

PRIME SUN TIME! The best part of the day to lay out and work on your tan before the sun gets too hot. To handle the heat, take an occasional dip in the ocean. Salt water is the best thing for your skin so soak it up as much as you can. Around 11:00 is the appropriate time to order an island drink. Mojito? Pina colada? Miami vice? Strawberry daiquiri? The decision is yours...

12:15 p.m.

Head over to the lunch buffet or restaurant. If you see something on the buffet or on the menu that you have never tried before, now is your chance to indulge. Fried squid on the menu? Might as well give that a try. This is the perfect time to edit your vacation Instagram pictures and think of a good caption.

1:00 p.m.

The sun is getting stronger at this point, so after lunch is a good time for a "shade break." The most relaxing way to do this is by taking a nap on the beds by the pool. Jump in the pool to rinse off the sand and salt water that accumulated on your skin earlier when you were at the beach.

Moral of the story: nap time/shade time is essential. If you're lucky, maybe your resort will be having a foam party during this time! If you can't nap, this is your opportunity to swim over to the swim up bar and try a different drink.

2:30 p.m.

At this point, you may have had enough of the beach and pool, so try an excursion or activity. If you want to stay near the resort, rent jet skis, go parasailing or go on a banana boat ride. The possibilities are endless, and the island workers are always willing to bargain and argue over the price! If you are feeling more adventurous, go snorkeling on a catamaran, rent ATVs and ride them through the desert or take a walk through the rainforest.

5:30 p.m.

After a long day, hot tub time is THE best time. Sit back in the hot tub and let the jets do the rest of the work. Turn on your speaker and scroll to your favorite song. This is a good time to reflect on the day's adventures and look forward to what the night will bring.

6:00 p.m.

Is it just me or is getting ready for dinner on vacation so fun? Showering feels good after a long day of salt water and sand. Hair and makeup preparation is minimal. At this point in the day, ALOE IS YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND! If you are sunburnt (like me), aloe feels like liquid heaven.

7:00 p.m.

Ah, once you are all ready and head downstairs, you are pleasantly surprised with the plates of appetizers awaiting you. Conveniently, you look to the left and there is an open bar. That means prosecco/champagne time. Cheers! This is a good opportunity to get a few cute pictures with your squad before dinner.

8:00 p.m.

DINNER TIME! Hopefully, your resort has a lot of options. Monday is for Mediterranean food. Tuesday is Italian. Wednesday is Hibachi. Thursday is seafood. End the week off right with steak on Friday.

10:30 p.m.

Thankfully, the club finally opens, but of course, you do not want to be the first person there. Depending on if the club looks lit or not, enter between 10:30-11:00. Dance like you have never danced before because you will never see any of the people again!

Be careful walking back to your room in the dark. Go to sleep and get ready to start the fabulous routine all over again tomorrow!

Cover Image Credit: Lexi Caruso

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