Steve has been a member of the L’Arche Community in Flintshire for four years. He volunteers as a committee member, assisting at Community meetings and facilitating talks about L’Arche at the school where he works as an RE teacher.

Steve reflects here on the importance of L’Arche’s model of inclusion in a world that can feel lonely and isolating.

‘L’Arche is a great model for inclusion and for accepting everybody for who they are.  I can feel it most at times when I come to a L’Arche meeting and I’ve had a tough day at work, and I can just be accepted as Steve. It’s somewhere that you can come to and just be.

We talk about L’Arche as being for people with and without learning disabilities. But in the day-to-day meetings we never think about it in that way. We are all one Community. We all help each other and have a laugh together, pull each other’s legs. It’s a really nice community.

There’s so much you can [learn] from people with learning disabilities. We had a tragic loss of one of our core members [a few weeks ago]. The way that the others rallied was really touching. I think that although L’Arche is for people with and without learning disabilities, it’s very much the people with learning disabilities who can help those of us who like to think we are without.

Because of my religious background - I’m a practising Catholic - I’ve always believed that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. I’ve always tried to follow Christ’s example of including everyone. I think being part of L’Arche you start to realise even more that everyone has gifts and talents. Maybe they apply them in a different way. But they’re still there.

You can really see what makes L’Arche special on nights like tonight at a Community gathering. Lots of people come along and we sit down and we eat, we pray, we talk through practical things like finances. It’s just about people getting stuck in and being together, and knowing that you can come here whenever. I can come here and be welcomed, and we just get on with being ourselves. It gives me that feeling of being part of a community that accepts you as who you are.’