This is the fifth and final in a series of articles that explored the nature of developmental disability, its impact on our community and the resources available. Wendy Dyck is a freelance writer working in the Comox Valley since 2001. She has been a regular contributor to Infocus and other magazines and has written an arts column for CYMC. She is also an editor with seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, to her credit.
Special to the Record
A snapshot of L’Arche Comox Valley in 2010 would show L’Arche settled into the community – Jubilee House was truly a home, a family of core members and the assistants who lived there, while the Outreach Centre kept its doors open to the broader community with creative arts programs and drop-in times. It seemed like L’Arche was ‘working’, addressing the needs in the community with competence and compassion.
But as time went on, staff and volunteers at the Outreach Centre began to become aware of new concerns.
First, there were the many adults with developmental disabilities who were living at home with aging parents. Clearly, family resources were stretched – and what would happen when parents were no longer able to care for their child?
Then there were the adults living semi-independently in substandard housing – concerns for their safety and hygiene presented daily challenges.
And there was always the challenge of finding suitable and affordable spaces for L’Arche’s arts programs and administration. Rented spaces were expensive and, in the case of the Outreach Centre, never truly suited to the messiness or space needed for art activities, storage and display.
Housing, more intentional community for semi-independent adults, well-designed spaces for art-making and community gathering – how could the L’Arche community address such disparate needs?
Conversations happened, brainstorming sessions began, ideas flew – and a collective vision emerged. How about one multi-use building that could provide large, light-filled spaces for creative arts, residential units with a community room for those who could live semi-independently, and house administrative offices?
It was a modest dream but a huge undertaking for such a small community. A feasibility study was conducted and an architect hired. Land was purchased and drawings for an 8,000 square foot facility took the dream one step closer to reality. But the real work began in April 2014, when the I Belong! campaign to build the facility was launched.
To date, over $400,000 has already been raised as the dream of a community where everyone has a place catches hold.
This fall, L’Arche is excited to host Canadian Olympian and gold medal winner Alex Bilodeau who has shown himself not just a champion of sport, but also a champion of people with disabilities, like his brother, Frederick who has cerebral palsy.
Bilodeau will be speaking at a public event on Saturday, Oct. 4 in support of the I Belong! campaign and his inspiring story of perseverance and quest for excellence that springs from his love of sport and the relationship with his brother is both powerful and moving.
It is an exciting time for L’Arche and for the Comox Valley.
A dream is becoming reality as our community recognizes the needs of its most vulnerable members and stands alongside them as they give voice to their need to belong. Visit www.larchecomoxvalley.org to contribute or read more about the campaign.