“I think people feel a distance with people with learning disabilities not because they don’t like them, but because they are afraid of interacting with them, afraid of doing something wrong. Sometimes when I go out with core members I notice that some people stare, or treat them like children. When you work with people with learning disabilities you understand that they are just people and you can talk to them as you would anyone else, or any other friend you have.
The main thing about L’Arche is that it doesn’t matter who you are or how you are, you just have to be yourself. You can just enjoy what you’re doing and be happy. The thing that I’ve learned is to enjoy the small moments; for example, when a person is happy to see me or if I have a good conversation, or when we laugh together. These small moments really make your whole day.
I don’t have a favourite moment. But there are a few times when I’ve had a bad day and I just sit down with one of the core members who would tell me what they had done that day and how happy they were about it. To see the other people being so happy about something can make me feel really happy about it too.
L’Arche has helped me to open up more. It has taught me a lot. I don’t feel my age anymore – I feel a lot older. I think L’Arche makes you grow up way faster. I’ve also experienced my own boundaries and the boundaries of other people. You can really see where your limits are, in a good way and a bad way. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my character and what I can and can’t do.
L’Arche has changed what’s important for me. It’s not important to have a high status and lots of luxury things. For me now it’s more important to be with others; to get to know people and to help them.”
If you are inspired by Emilia’s experience and reflections please do think about spending a gap year in Personal, Professional and Relational Development at L’Arche Ipswich.