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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If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.

I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

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Top 10 Things To Do While Traveling And Exploring In Tel Aviv

Make the most out of your visit to the Miami of the Middle East.


Exploration aficionado, connoisseur of all things food, beach lover, party-goer and pursuer of culture: if any of these traits are even loosely associated with your personality, then Tel Aviv is your go-to city. And, once you've finally arrived in Israel's oasis, you'll surely need an agenda that will make your visit worthwhile That's why I've made this list of top 10 Tel Aviv must-do's, which, by the way, can all be fully accomplished within 24 hours! (For those of you with an extended layover in Tel Aviv, this list is golden). Happy travels!

1. Start by enjoying one of Tel Aviv's 12 beaches...

A snapshot of just a few of Tel Aviv's incredible beaches.

Photo Credit: Viva Lifestyle and Travel

From dawn till dusk, you'll see people soaking in the marvelous Tel Aviv beachfront, where the Mediterranean Sea's temperature hovers at a steady 70 degrees Fahrenheit! If you get hungry, there are a number of restaurants located right on the beachfront that are sure to satiate your cravings.

2. And then stroll down a gorgeous beachside promenade.

The beachside promenade in Tel Aviv.

Photo Credit: Israeli 21c

Feel like going for a walk? Tel Aviv's beachside promenade has you covered. Enjoy gorgeous sea-side views while sauntering upon beautiful wavy pavement, which stretches all the way from the port of Jaffa in the south to the port of Namal in the north.

3. Continue your walk southwards to discover the ancient beauty of Jaffa...

The beautiful port of Jaffa.

Photo Credit: The Culture Trip.

Venture southwards, and you will uncover an ancient realm completely opposite to that of the modern aura of central Tel Aviv. Admire the beating heart of Jaffa, its central clock tower and subsequently absorb the beautiful nature of its multiple gardens. Continue towards the port to find an archaic monastery and weave through gorgeous alleyways until you fall upon a magnificent view of the city coastline.

4. Or head up north to uncover the beautiful northern port.

Enjoy a lovely walk at the northern port of Namal.

Photo Credit: TLV Spot

If you take your stroll northwards, you will eventually uncover a pristine wooden boardwalk aligned with the melodious aroma of espresso and freshly baked pita, all enhanced by an incredible view of the sea.

5. On your walk, try and strike up a conversation with the locals...

Local insights can vastly enhance your stay in Tel Aviv.

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

If you really want to make the most out of your visit to Tel Aviv, try and chat with the locals. Not only will you learn about all of the cool, non-touristy destinations that you must add to your agenda, but you'll learn the most important thing of all: how to be Israeli and wave some "chutzpah" in the air like you just don't care.

6. Then heed their advice and wander towards the Carmel Market.

Carmel Market.

Photo Credit: Haaretz News

Once you learn about "chutzpah," take your newly acquired knowledge and put it to the test by negotiating with vendors at the Carmel Market. The market (or "shuk") has a wide variety of products for sale, including fresh produce, delicious foods, knick knacks, clothing and more!

7. As evening falls, quench your rumbling stomach with an authentic Israeli meal...

Abu Hassan serves up the best hummus and falafel in Israel.

Photo Credit: Food Crafters

Maybe I'm biased, but Israeli food is my absolute favorite. Love meat? Try a generous helping of chicken or steak shwarma at Hakosem. Vegetarian? Then sabich is your go-to: a delicious pita stuffed with hummus, chopped vegetables, tahini, egg, and fried eggplant. Vegan? No problem, Tel Aviv is the vegan food capital of the world! And if you love hummus and falafel as much as I do, then eat the best possible at Abu Hassan in Jaffa.

8. And then go admire the glory of a setting sun.

Sunset in Tel Aviv.

Photo Credit: Nile Guide

Just when you thought the beach couldn't get any better, it does, especially at sunset. The variegated rays of orange, yellow and red are guaranteed to make you gape in awe.

9. Once darkness paints the sky, take part in one of the best night scenes the planet has to offer!

Tel Aviv's night life.

Photo Credit: EatinTLV

Tel Aviv is known as one of the world's party hubs, and, on any given night of the week, there are raves exploding across the city. Yup, even on Monday, the clubs here are filled to the brim. The best part about clubbing in Tel Aviv? There are dozens of clubs in the area, each with their own unique personality, so you're bound to find your favorite rager venue.

10. And complete your stay with an amazing breakfast at the Sarona Market.

Sarona Market.

Photo Credit: Israel for Tourists

Wouldn't it be phenomenal if someone invented a shopping mall that exclusively sold food? Well, this is proof that dreams come true in Tel Aviv! Head on down to the centrally-located Sarona Market to indulge on everything from free-style Ramen to three-stack Kinder Bueno pancakes with a molten chocolate core, brought to you by Benedicts.

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