Humans of L’Arche, Friends with Disabilities, Spring Break 2016

Humans of L’Arche


This is a picture of me and David. David is a man of few words, but when he does choose to contribute to conversation it is always hilarious. I knew David and I would get along from the moment I made a pretty terrible joke and he was the only one who laughed. I felt a connection with him through our shared sense of humor. My experience at L’Arche was made positive through the beautiful and unique people who shared life with me.



This is Johnny, as you can tell from his big smile, he is a ray of sunshine. Throughout this week, I have gotten the pleasure to get to know him while listening to Johnny Cash music and eating cake, his favorite dessert. He is truly the nicest and most genuine individual I have ever met. I strive to be more like him. I will never forget the moments we shared this week at L’Arche. I hope one day I can go back to Clinton, Iowa and make more memories with Johnny because they are bound to be the absolute best.



Darin and Kenny are two people in the apartment program at L’Arche. Darin is the one giving me bunny ears and Kenny is one hugging me. One of my favorite days of the service trip was the day we spent in the apartments. I really connected with Darin and Kenny, both of them are so fun-loving, genuine and kind. Darin is a beautiful singer and Kenny has one of the kindest souls I have ever encountered. The time I spent with them warmed my heart and filled me with joy.



On the right is Dan. He loves racecars and has a massive collection. I saw that he is a sweet and caring person. He offered us cookies when we were in his home, and they tasted delicious. I enjoyed getting to know him and visiting his apartment. I hope to be able to go back to Clinton, Iowa one day and get to hang out with him some more because he made my day happy and put a smile on my face.



L’Arche is a unique and wonderful place. Each individual, whether a core member, assistant, or Director of Hospitality, has a vital role to the L’Arche community. When you enter into the community, you are welcomed and celebrated with hugs, warm meals, and laughter. I was both nervous and excited to return to the community. However, my nerves were gone the moment I received a warm welcome from Sarah, the Director of Hospitality, and Bob, a core member. Throughout the week, I was constantly amazed by the love and relationships formed in the homes. Assistants shared life with core members even when they “were not on the clock” and expressed love that expected nothing in return. I once again was shown what radical hospitality is and I cannot wait to share it with the campus. I cannot wait to return to L’Arche once again, hopefully sooner rather than later.


Long Weekend trips 2016

October 2016
This year, the TRIPS Program will send two trips during Long Weekend– Environmental Justice to the Upper Peninsula and Friends with Disabilities to Iowa.  Both trips will depart on Wednesday, October 5 and return on Sunday, October 9, 2016.

Environmental Justice (Watersmeet, MI)

2 leaders (Emily Owens & Tyler Butts), 4 participants

Participants on this trip will learn about environmental issues through experiences in the Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula. Students will work with conservationists to prevent the spread of non-native invasive species and complete trail maintenance while experiencing nature and reflecting on ways to create change.

Friends with Disabilities (Clinton, IA)
2 leaders (Jenna Decker & Adam Strube), 4 participants
This group will share life at the L’Arche community in Iowa.  L’Arche’s mission is to make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, to foster the development of communities that respond to members’ changing needs and to engage with local cultures while working toward a more human society. Our group will live with the residents and provide friendship through sharing life. 
Please keep these groups in your thoughts and prayers!

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Final Reflections, Spring Break 2016

March 24, 2016

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spartanburg, SC

Final Reflections

As we come to the end of our trip, we can’t help but reflect on the great memories we all have made this week. It has been a wild ride down here in South Carolina. We were overwhelmed with the “southern hospitality” that everyone warned us about! We have more sweet treats than we know what to do with (which certainly is not something to complain about)!

For our last day of service with Christmas in Action, we worked at the warehouse with our favorite man in Spartanburg, Ken. The best way to describe Ken is the grandpa we all want to have. He treated us as his own children and even bought us 48 Snickers bars (and sent the rest home with us because we couldn’t eat all of those)! We helped Ken move bathtubs, showers, and garage doors today which he could not have done without us. It was awesome to see what 12 college kids can get moved around in such a short time. Ken mentioned to us that he was supposed to be out of the old warehouse last month, but he has not been given any volunteers to help with the large and heavy items. With our help these past few days, he nearly cleared out the old warehouse! Seeing the smile on Ken’s face after we cleaned, moved, and organized the new warehouse was absolutely priceless.

Our group has been so awesome and really engaged with the service, the town, and the people we encountered, which has made the trip so much more than it would have been without being focused on the reasons we are here. We had lunch at Glendale Shoals today, a really cool preserve with an old mill, a few goats and a river. It was a really great way to end our week in Spartanburg. We are all leaving Spartanburg feeling empowered to question the systems in our own cities and ready to bring what we learned here back home!

Gretchen and Margaret, Trip Leaders

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spring Break 2016

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spartanburg, SC

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Today we continued our volunteering with Christmas in Action.  In reflecting upon the day’s events, most members of the group considered today to be a success.  We were able to productively help Ken and his efforts to organize the new CIA warehouse, and we got some pretty stylish hats out of the deal.

The work today was very paced. It felt as if every individual in the group was able to work in a cohesive manner with other individuals at a relaxed pace. This carefree environment was due in part to the personalities of the people we worked with today, but also due to the fact that we have become more of a “team” as time has gone on this week. To reflect upon this notion is encouraging – it leads me to think that we have successfully adapted to change and have worked through each other’s differences to work towards a common goal: helping Christmas in Action in the cause of relieving the poverty of Spartanburg. It’s an exciting thought to realize that people who are so different can work together cohesively after just a few days of service.

After a long day of service, the group piled into the vans and returned to the housing quarters. I was feeling drowsy so I laid down to take a quick nap. Most members of the group enjoyed the nice weather by playing Frisbee or exercising outdoors. Additionally, a few members of the local college campus community came around to visit while people were congregated outside.  Classic Southern hospitality.

Later in the evening, we shared a pleasant chili dinner with a few members of a local prayer group at a Spartanburg area parish. The cornbread, in particular, was quite good. We thanked the prayer group for their good company and good food, and received a chocolate cake to-go in return.

In addition to the encouraging events over the course of the day, I am thrilled that we had the opportunity to work with Ken and Bill today. The combination of both of their relaxed personalities made for a light-hearted environment and enjoyable day.

– Daniel, aka Cool Sweater Boy and participant

P.S. Thank you Ken for the tweed hats and the excess of Snickers bars.

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spring Break 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Today (March 22) marked day three of our service in Spartanburg and we were very excited to know that we would be heading back to the home of Miss Faye so that we could finish her ramp. Our intentions was to finish the ramp before lunch and then, continue our work at the warehouse. After starting our work for the day, we quickly realized that finishing the ramp was going to take longer than we thought. We ran into some frustrations as we had to deal with some difficult tree roots that were hindering progress but with a lot of swinging the pickaxe, sawing, and lots of encouragement, we were finally able to conquer the tree roots and continue our progress. It was a stressful situation but with the guidance of our new fearless leader, Bill, everyone was able to stay calm. Frustrations were also distracted by the two boxes worth of donuts that Faye brought for us. It was incredible how someone in need that we were there to help wanted to do something so generous for us.

Our morning stayed calm until we realized that we were behind and and would not be able to finish the ramp before we were supposed to leave. After a quick phone call to Ken, the warehouse manager, we were told that we could stay so we could finish the ramp. We were so thankful and excited and with newfound energy, we all pulled together to finish. After a long day of hard work, laughter, and donuts, we finally finished! It was an incredible feeling for all of us to see our finished product and to see Faye be able to exit her house with no problem!

After service we were supposed to eat dinner with the president of Spartanburg Methodist College, but due to some confusion we had to make other arrangements. Thankfully we were meet with more hospitality and we found a hot, delicious meal ready for us to eat after a long day. After dinner, we enjoyed milkshakes and fries and a walk through downtown Spartanburg which was a great way to not only unwind from the long day, but to also get the chance to see life in a different place.

We had a pretty incredible day where we made memories that we will remember for years to come. Who would have thought that twelve people could finish a project like a ramp in two and a half days? Surely not us, and yet we did. Teamwork is pretty great.

Sarah, participant

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spring Break 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Second Day

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action trip, Spartanburg, South Carolina

As we entered our second day of service, we had bright eyes and were most looking forward to finishing the ramp for Faye. However, we started the day by meeting Ken, the warehouse manager for Christmas In Action. He was a delightful, young-at-heart man who was excited to see so many ‘youngsters’ like us looking to make a difference. He explained to us that the organization is undergoing a move to a new warehouse and have been working on the process of moving for some time now.

As a group, we quickly loaded up his truck and our vans with supplies to take to the new warehouse. Once at the warehouse and everything was unloaded, we started to move things around and clean up. While talking with Ken, he explained that many of the groups were much smaller than ours and by the sound of it, he was a bit surprised by how much we could accomplish. I was able to see people even going and asking what else they could do prior to Ken assigning tasks. This goes to show that not only numbers, but also a drive to help make a difference can lead a group to exceed all expectations!

We drove to a local park to enjoy our packed lunches. It was a great chance for us to enjoy a bit of the sun that was peeking out on such a beautiful day. While there, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were already making use of the park even though it has just been reopened for the season. The people using the park were also quite diverse. It was great to see people interacting with one another, especially the children. Coming from an area that is predominantly White and of the same socioeconomic class, this breaking of the socioeconomic walls as well as the racial walls, is something we can all work towards.

On the drive to Faye’s house, the difference in the socioeconomic standing in Spartanburg became even more apparent. On a single street one side would have houses that could be considered ‘slums’ while the other looked like what you could consider an upper class neighborhood. This divide in the economic standing of the people of a single street made me consider how much of an effort is actually being made to make the changes needed to get the all of the people of Spartanburg what they need to prosper. If being able to help the people within their own town is difficult when the problem is literally staring them in the face every morning when they leave for work, I cannot help but wonder what is needed to push for a change in mindset.

When we arrived at Faye’s house in hopes of finishing the ramp, we quickly came to realize we would not accomplish our goal. Unable to access the tools needed to complete the ramp, along with difficulty in understanding the steps in building the ramp, made the progress very slow. Harry, our group leader for the day, did his best to help us in every way he could, and with his help, we were able to make some progress. Although we were not able to finish the ramp as hoped, we were able to make some progress towards that goal. The group hopes that we will finish the ramp tomorrow and see Faye use it for the first time. While we are excited to be able to help Faye, I cannot help but wonder how many others are in the same position as she is and who is there to help them. Without this ramp, Faye is essentially a prisoner in her own home. I think Faye, as well as the group, is thankful that we are able to help her overcome the challenge of living in her home safely. We are looking forward to finishing the ramp tomorrow and seeing her use it for the first time!

Whitney, participant

Affordable Housing-Christmas In Action, Spring Break 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

We have arrived in Spartanburg, South Carolina safe and sound after a long 15 hour drive. Our group has been laughing and bonding since we left SNC. Today was our first day of service with Christmas in Action. We are working on a wheelchair ramp for an elderly local woman named Faye. Our team leader, Angus, welcomed us with open arms and a lot of southern hospitality. He volunteers for CIA in his spare time, while also working a full time job. Angus explained to us that Faye is essentially a prisoner in her own home. This really hit us all hard – we can’t imagine what it is like not to have the freedom to leave our house whenever we want. Most of our group has not had a lot of interaction with older adults so this was very eye opening and helped everyone see how important this project is. The group worked very well together, whether it was sawing wood, drilling holes, or pounding in nails, the group bonded throughout the day. Everyone was understanding of each other as not many of us have any experience with power tools or construction.

After serving today, we were welcomed to dinner at St. Paul’s Catholic Church where the Knights of Columbus hosted us. They made us a wonderful warm meal and we were able to chat with them about the city, the Green Bay Packers, the need for volunteers in Spartanburg, and the work we had done during the day.

During reflection, it was a common theme that our group really enjoyed meeting our hosts, learning about who we were serving, the issue of affordable housing, and how much work construction really is. It was certainly a team effort throughout the day and we could not have accomplished as much as we did without everyone’s help. In the reflection, we drew “snapshots” of the day and everyone seemed to have nothing but a positive experience so far and was passionate in explaining their drawings of the ramp, the dogs, the friends, and the hospitality. We are really looking forward to the rest of our week and continuing to help Christmas in Action in Spartanburg!

Margaret and Gretchen, Trip Leaders

Affordable Housing-Habitat, Spring Break 2016

March 24, 2016

“So thankful, so blessed, so alive!” is what I’ve responded when anyone asked me how I’ve been feeling this week.

This week has been nothing less than life-changing, from the people we met, the lives we touched, places we went, and memories we made – nothing fell short. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we learned so much and will forever carry this trip and its lessons with us. One particular moment that stood out to me and brought tears to my eyes occurred on our second to last day of service. As I was climbing down a ladder from painting a house, I spotted a girl from the neighborhood. I was pleased to see her out and enjoying the beautiful weather until she got closer and I got a glimpse of the brutal reality…

As she passed the house, I saw tears rushing down her face. I then realized that the slamming of the door I previously heard may not have been an accident. There’s no doubt in my mind that that girl fled from her home in order to escape her own reality. The sight of someone in the same neighborhood leaving her home in so much pain hurt me. While I’d like to think that this was a crazy occurrence that doesn’t happen often, I know that’s not the case. The lives and pain experienced by many people we met this week will never be fully understood by us. It made me so so so thankful for all I have in my life – especially having a safe place filled with love, family, and food, known as “home.”

This trip has taught myself and everyone else to be thankful for every blessing we have. We are all so much more fortunate that we will ever see. Life is short and precious.

Isabel Detienne, participant