The giving and receiving of gifts is an important part of both Christmas and community. Derek came to L’Arche over thirty years ago with an extraordinary gift to share – an ability to use his art and creativity to connect with the people around him. In return, L’Arche has given a place to belong and boundless opportunities for Derek to nurture and showcase his talents.

Derek’s biggest passion is for painting – big, bold, colourful canvases –such as the nativity scene below, or the jigsaw puzzles he has been doing for as long as anyone can remember. A man of few words, he uses art to connect with others and express himself.

Derek’s talents were spotted by Jané, an artist and L’Arche volunteer who submitted his work for the 2020 Lurner Prize, a national competition for self-taught artists. Derek won an award and Jané helped him organise an exhibition in south London later in the year. Jané says:

That’s what’s nice about L’Arche, is that it space for self-expression. For a lot of creative people, verbal communication doesn’t allow sufficient depth, and Derek’s art speaks to that.Working with Derek has been really helpful and his work hasinspired me to be more creative again.

Kate, a Member of L’Arche and Derek’s friend of 20 years says

With Derek, it’s about confidence. L’Arche has given him the independence he needed, encouraging his faith, his cooking, his music and his artistic talents, enabling him to go out and about on his own, while supporting him to be safe in that independence.

Life has been full of new and unpredictable challenges this year. But living life to the full is about more than staying safe: it is about having a community where you belong and friends who care about you and who help you to flourish.

To offer more opportunities to people with learning disabilities, L’Arche needs your help. Will you consider making a gift to our Advent Appeal? Your support will enable more people with learning disabilities to experience connection, creativity, and do more than just stay safe.