Client Highlight: L'Arche Tahoma Hope

A Tacoma nonprofit and community for people with developmental disabilities

By: Peter Gray

By: Peter Gray

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“There’s a feeling of home here that keeps me… It just feels right.”

These were the words Kayleigh Harper used to describe her last three and a half years working with L’Arche Tahoma Hope, one out of 150 L’Arche communities all across the world that provide a home and support system for people with developmental disabilities. Their roots stem from a response to mass institutionalizations of disabled people in the 1960s.

The first line of the L’Arche mission statement reads:

“make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, revealed through mutually transforming relationships”

They recognize that each person is inherently valuable and capable of contributing to society, an obvious truth that has been too easily forgotten over the course of human history. 

 

Everything revolves around the core members (the L’Arche term for people with disabilities), who live full and meaningful lives through supported employment, home life, community connections, celebrations, classes, and social activities. There are three parts to L’Arche Tahoma Hope: the licensed group/adult family homes, the Welcome Center, where people with disabilities in the community can connect with one another, and L’Arche Farm & Gardens, a Group Supported Employment program contracted with Pierce County. There are four core members living in L’Arche homes that work in this program and an additional five living in the greater Tacoma area that commute to the farm. L’Arche harvests the organic produce grown on this farm and sells them at local farmer’s markets, along with crafts created with their handmade paper. L’Arche not only provides a community for the core members to call home, they also allow them to earn a wage and contribute their gifts to many. 

 

We had the pleasure of speaking with Kayleigh Harper, who started with the non profit organization as a Jesuit Volunteer farm assistant in 2017 after graduating from Loyola University Chicago. Three and a half years later, she is now the leader of Farmhouse (one of four homes in the L’Arche community) where she oversees the operations of the house and cares for the core members.

L'Arche employee with core member
Kayleigh Harper with core member Nancy

 

In order to ensure a high quality of life and realize the full potential of the core members as contributors to the community, local economy, and beyond, the L’Arche assistants/volunteers play a vital role in guiding these members throughout the day. They see that each person’s unique needs are met whether it be in their daily routine, work on the farm, or out in the community. Kayleigh believes in the dignity of all humans and the importance of connection. These convictions are clear in the way Kayleigh talks about her friendships with the core members and the valuable lessons they have taught her. 

 

We had previously met Kayleigh when she was a part of the annual L’Arche auction feature video we produced in late February. We saw her connection with several of the Farmhouse members, including Kendyl, a deaf core member who teaches ASL (American Sign Language) to preschoolers. Kayleigh was able to fully immerse herself in the language early on when she met Kendyl. The two would walk around while Kayleigh pointed out different items in the house and Kendyl showed her the signs. Now the two can communicate through ASL, which “allows Kendyl to be her most authentic self and voice.” 

 

“There is an invitation to be yourself; an invitation to slow down.” 

 

“Connection” was the one word that Kayleigh used to describe her experience at L’Arche. It is very clear, as the mission statement suggests, that these connections are “mutually transforming”. Kendyl, along with all of the other members of Farmhouse, have taught Kayleigh some valuable lessons. They have shown her how to “peel back the layers that we’ve sometimes built up around ourselves, allowing us to break that down and be our most authentic, true selves… There is an invitation to be yourself; an invitation to slow down.” 

 

While each day brings its unique challenges, Kayleigh knows that she is at home with her community. Her favorite part about being with L’Arche is “the fun we have. It’s hard work but we find fun throughout our days. Sometimes it’s random dance parties while we are doing the dishes, singing, and joking around”. She calls these little moments the “joyous ordinaries… Finding the fun and happiness in the mundane tasks that we can forget about.” 

 

This is a lesson that everyone can take away from Kayleigh’s time at Farmhouse. Taking a moment to slow down and become mindful of these “joyous ordinaries” throughout our daily lives is especially important amidst so much chaos in the world. 

 

L'Arche Employee with core member
Kayleigh (right) with Kendyl

As a Tacoma video marketing and production company operating in the area for the past seven years, Gray Media Productions has had the honor of working with some of the most impactful nonprofits in the region. L’Arche is no exception. Recently, we produced the video content for their annual auction, where the theme was “Anchored in Hope”. 

 

Over the two days we filmed the interviews, we got to know many of the core members and assistants throughout the Tacoma houses. Their positive attitudes, passion for the L’Arche community, and gentle spirits left a lasting impact on us. 

 

Below is the longer feature video we put together, highlighting some of the struggles that the core members endured over the past year and how they persevered throughout the pandemic. Kayleigh was an integral part of this video, as she was able to facilitate discussion with Kendyl and other core members throughout the project. 

 

She is just one of the many amazing assistants you’ll see interacting with the L’Arche members in this video. And of course, you’ll get to know the heart of the L’Arche community: the core members. Enjoy!