15/08/2020

When Ellie and Dominic Joined L’Arche Manchester in the summer of 2019, neither of them could’ve predicted how the year would unfold.  Living in community with people with learning disabilities throughout a global pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge for our assistants, who have continued to support and shield with their communities. In these letters, Ellie and Dominic describe a whirlwind year with honesty, love and unrelenting optimism.

Dominic, Assistant since June 2019

A lot has changed and happened since last June. Plenty of it I had never expected, but I’ve found that all the challenges we’ve faced have really made me appreciate the friends in and around our community.

Being part of the L’Arche Manchester Community for a year now has really left me feeling part of something meaningful. It’s been great making friends, meeting new people and welcoming them into the community, passing on my knowledge to new assistants and saying goodbye to some. I think being in community here at L’Arche is just so honest and reflective of real life in the sense that nobody claims that life here is perfect or ideal, as we don’t live in a perfect or ideal world. Everyone makes mistakes, learns and grows; that level of transparency in the community is something that keeps me here, as it’s rare to see something that people care so much about and still admit there is room to grow and improve. 

Being part of the L’Arche Manchester Community for a year now has really left me feeling part of something meaningful.

During my training, I was very open with my thoughts and feelings, and even parts of my past. I felt very safe to do this, and after doing so I just felt so welcomed. I had another experience on the L’Arche holiday to the Peak District where I was very open and being nothing other than myself. I felt I was heard and valued by the assistants on the trip, and I returned with a deeper love for the community and friends I have here at L’Arche. 

In short, life in community isn’t always ideal or perfect; it’s reflective of real life, in that there have been days where I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and days where I just want to cry. The depth of good has always made me so content, I continue to come back day after day.

Ellie, Assistant since July 2019

L’Arche means so much to me in so many ways, but I wanted to tell you about some of the smaller moments that have made my year...

It’s been a year of shopping and a year of goodbyes. A year of getting ridiculously excited when seeing a cat or a feminist German techno band. A year of pamper evenings spent chatting about boys and long peaceful walks in companionable silence. A year of snowballs hurled over the breakfast table, spontaneous parties, dancing to ABBA in the kitchen, p-p-pickles and p-p-peptac and giggly 4am starts being told I’m beautiful. 

It’s been a year of fashion shows and whipped cream fights. A year of cat-cafés, roller-derby cheerleading, wheelchair races, making the perfect brew, too many herbs on food, mud-baths on hills, sausage-sandwiches, owl-onesies, Cloudy Leggi Bob & Mary, watching the sun set from a ten-storey car park, stretchy yellow men, the candle, luxurious waffles, conferences to hundreds of nurses spent chatting about swimming on Wednesday, 4am bread and butter pudding, blue spotty shorts, sponsored rainbow-walks, cooking chilli for 16 people, autumnal fairy lights, boogie nights, advent friends, art exhibitions with the Pope, exploding kittens, late night chats with cups of tea, and as always, choosing to laugh not cry. 

A year of painful goodbyes, and incomparable kindness. A year of the most raw and beautiful love and friendship.

It’s been a year of change; moving out of home, becoming a full-time carer, quarantine, Covid-19, living in a community. All that whilst sharing life with people with learning disabilities; it has taught me, and changed me in who I am. A year of painful goodbyes, and incomparable kindness. A year of the most raw and beautiful love and friendship. 

So, here’s to the best year, filled with lots of hard days, but outnumbered by all the unexpected beautiful days that make me so grateful for Izzy’s skills of persuasion. Thank you for everything and everyone you’ve given me L’Arche Manchester.

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