Bipana is an assistant in the L’Arche Highland Community. Since her first day, when she was welcomed to the Community by core members Susie and Tracy, Bipana has discovered her own strength and patience through living with people with learning disabilities.

The first thing that I remember when I came into the house is that there was a card signed by Susie and Tracy. Tracy held my hands and dragged me inside and took my jacket off. It felt nice that I was welcomed so quickly. I always have that memory with Tracy because she likes new people. So she didn’t let me move anywhere and was asking me to sit next to her and if I wanted tea. I’ll always remember that.

Before I came here, when it came to people with learning disabilities I thought they didn’t understand anything. That’s how I used to think. But when I came here I found that they know so much. They know when you are upset - you can’t hide it in this house. Even Susie, who is blind, will realise so quickly when you are upset. Tracy likes to talk all the time, she’s so chatty, she does lots of funny things – but still when she knows you’re upset she will come and sit next to you and look into your eyes and ask you questions.

I hear from other care homes that people just come into work and then go back home. But it’s not really like that here. Here it’s like family. People here really really do care for you. For me, I’m far from my family. When I was in my other job I used to feel really homesick, every month I used to cry because I wanted to go home. But when I’m in L’Arche there was only one time I felt homesick and that was when I missed my sisters wedding. That’s the only time I’ve felt homesick. Otherwise never. I miss them but I never feel alone because at L’Arche people are always around me making sure I’m okay. That’s the thing that I really enjoy about L’Arche – how people care about you. They want to make sure that you are okay.

I feel like I’m strong and I can do anything. If I have a hard life I can get through because I have struggled already. People always ask me how I manage to work with people with learning disabilities. I say that I might not have learning disabilities but I was also treated badly in school. I grew up in a poor family and when I didn’t pay my school fee my teacher would make me stand up for a long time to embarrass me in front of everyone. It’s kind of similar – if someone didn’t treat them well they would feel the same. That’s the thing that makes me want to work with people with learning disabilities. I really want to help them and make them happy. And I know how painful it is if someone treats you badly. 

I’m being really patient these days. I used to complain a lot about my life and the things I didn’t have. But then I came here and I can see that I should be happy with who I am. I grew up in a poor family and my mum died when I was really little so my dad had to do everything. It was really rough. I used to compare myself with my friends and how much wealth they had. Now I can only think about how happy I am. 

L’Arche is different from anywhere else. We are so connected with each other.

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