I am interested but I have no professional experience
The persons who apply as a volunteer seldom have any or little professional experience. This should not be an obstacle. Each person finds his/her own place within the community or the home according to his/her mission. The mission of a volunteer is based on his/her motivation, relational capacities and personal people skills. He/she is not expected to have the same skills as our salaried employees. He/she is expected to take on a role of support for the persons in the community with disabilities and create bonds in relationships of friendship. His/her role is to share day to day life in the home and provide direct care and support.
I’m afraid of mental disabilities
We are often afraid of what we do not know. We need time to discover and get to know each other. We try to take time in L'Arche! So, why not prepare this encounter: to begin with, an interview will take place to get acquainted (this can be done by skype if the applicant lives far away). Then, if this first contact is positive, we will invite the applicant to come and spend a week in a home; this is a week of discovery so that the person has a more concrete idea of the volunteer mission. At the end of this week, we make an assessment together and decide whether or not to pursue this volunteer project and possibly make many future wonderful encounters.
I know nothing about mental disabilities
It is indeed overwhelming to feel worried about the idea of sharing one’s life for 9 to 12 months in an environment one knows nothing about. This is why each volunteer is welcomed individually in the community. His/her project is discussed with the HR Manager before arrival so that he/she is well prepared. As we already mentioned at the beginning of this FAQ section, the selection of the volunteers is not based on experience and training already acquired in the domain of disabilities but rather on personal and human qualities, interest for persons with disabilities and motivation to take part in our project in L’Arche. First of all, we propose a week of discovery for applicants for a volunteer mission. Then, if the week is positive, the volunteer begins his/her mission and progressively becomes more and more integrated in the community and home.
What skills are required to be a volunteer at L'Arche?
It might be better to reply saying that we do not ask for any specific skill... and only insist on being well-balanced and feeling good about yourself...! As far as everything else is concerned, over recent years we have set up a specially designed training course for new volunteers. This formation provides, for example, an initiation to health care and first aid gestures that need to be known. The volunteer is also monitored by a reference person, his/her tutor, appointed within the community (generally the HR leader) who will listen to and accompany him/her throughout the volunteer mission. Weekly meetings with the team are also a time to receive support and reflect together.
I will turn18 in a few months. Can I begin a Civic Service program at l'Arche?
We consider that 18 years of age is the minimum age to live the experience that we offer. That being said, if you are going to turn 18 one or two months after beginning your volunteer service, you can contact us to prepare your volunteer project.
I am over 25, is it too late to do a Civic Service?
Various institutional programs exist that allow us to accept volunteers of different ages.
The Civic Service program specifies:
- a status for people between 16 and 25 years of age, known as a Civic Service mission.
- un status for people over the age of 25 known as the volunteer civic service.
What is to be understood by “mental disability”?
No standardized definition exists for this term. According to WHO: “a person with an intellectual disability, with a limited learning ability and limited intelligence development possibilities differs from mainstream people”. Handicap, deficiency, and other terms also include ''learning difficulties'' or ''disabled persons''. For each term or set of words, it is important that they are used with respect and thoughtfulness.
Is L'Arche a Catholic organization?
The first community of L’Arche was founded based on Christian tradition. Then, once other communities were founded in Canada and India the Federation became multi-confessional. The spiritual dimension of each community is lived in relation to its religious tradition. In France, L’Arche has been rooted in Christian tradition since its foundation and at the same time our members now come from very diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. The spiritual moments in the community are designed to be accessible to each person according to his/her human, spiritual or philosophical aspirations and questions.
In order to create unity we conjugate our differences. From one continent to another, a same spirit holds the spirituality of our communities together. This is a spirit of encounters, listening, empathy and solidarity.
Who finances L'Arche?
Each community of L'Arche is an independent legal entity. Financial income depends on the country where the community is located. The proportion of government funds is generally more important in European communities than in North America, and communities in developing countries most often depend on donations for their resources. The funding of L'Arche in Paris, which is an accredited medico-social establishment, is ensured by the Paris General Counsel (Conseil Général de Paris). Donations finance the community aspect of life in L’Arche; this is what is specific to l’Arche compared to other health care institutions.