Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 22, 2009
L'Arche needs a hand up to help out its clients
Foundation hopes to raise $1.5M a year to fund its programs both here and in Latin America
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SHERWOOD PARK - L'Arche is committed to helping create an open, inclusive and compassionate Canadian society where every person is valued and makes a contribution.
So if you want to help build such a society you should support the work of L'Arche and the vision of its founder - Jean Vanier - says Grant Kaminski, a national L'Arche leader based in Sherwood Park.
L'Arche Canada has been responding to the needs of people with disabilities for close to 40 years.
Kaminski says during that time, L'Arche has learned it is people with disabilities who can help us realize what's truly important in life - relationships, patience, forgiveness, love, acceptance, celebration and joy.
"People with intellectual disabilities help us get our priorities right."
Kaminski, a social worker and father of three, is the recently appointed director of development for the L'Arche Foundation, an institution created six years ago to support and extend the work of Vanier and L'Arche in Canada.
For nearly 10 years Kaminski served as director of the seven L'Arche homes in Edmonton. Last November, following a six-month sabbatical, he was appointed to the foundation.
"I feel I'm being called to pass on what we have learned in 40 years," he said.
Kaminski's current role is to raise awareness of L'Arche in Western Canada and to raise funds for L'Arche.
His focus is to present the vision of L'Arche to the national offices of major Canadian corporations and ask for their support. He also does presentations for service clubs and writes proposals for foundations dedicated to helping people with disabilities.
"We have raised funds, but it has been very difficult because from the moment I started, the economy was crashing," Kaminski said in a recent interview. "So people stopped (donating)."
Kaminski managed to keep about 200 major donors, including wealthy individuals and corporate donors. Every major Canadian bank is a L'Arche donor. "But it's still a very small group. We are down by 40 per cent."
As the economy improves, Kaminski is picking up more donors, but not many. "I don't think people are feeling secure yet about the future."
As well, he meets regularly with small groups of individuals who are interested in learning more about L'Arche and its work. The other reality Kaminski and the foundation face is that "our younger generation doesn't know who Jean Vanier and L'Arche is. That's our branding issue."
To remedy the situation, Kaminski has addressed teachers' conventions and given presentations in schools. As a result, he managed to make a L'Arche-produced DVD, Belonging, part of the Alberta school curriculum. It's already part of the curriculum in Ontario.
"This DVD now is going to be in every Grade 11 classroom in Alberta starting this fall." Belonging is centred on a statement by Vanier, who says, "It is more important to belong than it is to be loved."
As Kaminski explained, even a child who lives in an abusive home always wants to go home.
THE NEED TO BELONG
Why? "Because that's where they feel they belong. Kids belong there. It's not that they are loved but we have a need to belong. And so we are saying 'How do you build a school of belonging, of inclusiveness and where people feel they belong?'"
As Kaminski puts it, "If we feel we belong, we'd probably treat each other better."
That's an area where L'Arche has been successful.
"We have learned how to build community and how to build it inclusively and how to include the people on the margins," Kaminski said.
The L'Arche Foundation offers other supplementary course materials designed to inspire young people with a vision of a world where everyone belongs and can make a contribution.
One is a DVD called Choosing Our Future, which features Vanier talking to high school students about belonging, bullying, creating an inclusive school environment and finding their direction in life.
The L'Arche Foundation has also produced a Bible study based on Larch's values for ages 14 to 17, which has been well received by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"This message to young people has the potential to fill a vacuum that we are being told by teachers and university professors is needed - how to create an open and inclusive Canadian society," Kaminski said.
"That's the plan for us at L'Arche - to change society to be one where we belong to each other, to close the gap between the rich and the poor and to be socially responsible for society."
L'Arche - a unique vision of care giving and community building that fosters inclusion, understanding and belonging - creates homes, work programs and communities for persons with intellectual disabilities.
There are nearly 200 small L'Arche homes and day settings across Canada, where people who have developmental disabilities and those who come to assist them, share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighborhoods.
Kaminski said L'Arche cannot continue to do this work without resources, especially since L'Arche Canada also supports L'Arche communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So he is calling on people of good will to support L'Arche financially or as volunteers. The foundation is trying to raise $1.5 million a year, $300,000 of which will go to support the Latin American and Caribbean communities.
In addition, it is trying to create a $10 million endowment fund to sustain L'Arche in the long term.
The L'Arche Foundation can be reached by calling 1-800-571-0212 or visiting1> www.larchefoundation.ca.