Experience L’Arche – empowering disabilities :)
Project dates: 01/09/2016-01/06/2017
Place: Kaunas, Lithuania
Topic: disabled people
1 volunteer at the centre.
Application deadline: 19th January 2016 to firstname.lastname@example.org
About the host organization – Kaunas l'Arche community
Association Kaunas l'Arche community is a community which mission is to reveal the gifts of people with or without disabilities through close and communal relationships. It is a small faith-based community of friendship and mutuality between people with intellectual disability and those who assist them. Community life, spirituality and professionalism are the desired basis of our organization.
Kaunas l'Arche community is based on Christian values and strives to live its daily life in Christian spirituality. It is young organization and community (established in 2010) permanently searching for the best way of being open, welcoming, professional and co-responding to the actual needs. Kaunas l'Arche community is a part of The International l'Arche Federation (www.larche.org).
The community operates as a day center in community house where three-four assistants live and work. During the day people with disability assisted by employees and volunteers do simple art works and daily duties together. Whatever activity is being done, the most important thing is to do it with (not instead of!) a disabled person and to be open to create a personal bonds and friendship with him/her. Also there are common activities, feasts, trips, camps, other events during the weekends or other time.
We are going though discernment process towards the type of community where people with disability and assistants would permanently live together sharing their everyday lives.
Our present community consists of 23 people with intellectual disability, 6 employees, 5-8 volunteers, board members and a circle of friends, parents, supporters etc. Not all the persons come every day, according to several factors they are spread over the week so that everyday there are 12-18 persons in total.
Since its very beginning Kaunas l'Arche community has involved volunteers as we believe that personal relationships between people with and without disabilities are the most important and mutually benefit both to a person with disability and a volunteer.
Organization is permanently developing a structure of work with volunteers: regular meetings, reflections, seminars, feasts are organized. There is a person responsible for voluntary work in our organization. All of the employees have volunteering experience, most of them have been international volunteers in analogous organizations.
Most of our volunteers are local, but we have had some short-period international volunteers and one long-term international volunteer (EVS). We strongly believe that EVS give mutual benefit for both – volunteer and organization - in terms of learning, accepting differences, growing personally and in organization level.
According to the amount of incomes there are 6-8 employees every year, 3 of them always participate in a daily life of community. All of the staff has volunteering experience, most of them have been international volunteers. The team is young and consists of a leader who is experienced in work with youth and young volunteers, psychologists and assistants. Some persons participate in non-formal education trainings.
The person responsible for voluntary in the organization is motivated and constantly learning in different ways to work with volunteers, to help, support, and supervise them.
Almost everybody of staff and local volunteers can communicate in English, some people speak French, Italian, Russian and Spanish (however a volunteer would be asked to put some effort to learn at least basic words/ phrases in Lithuanian as it would be important in a contact with disabled persons).
Kaunas l'Arche community is located in Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas is called the city of students and rich in cultural, sport, students’ events, it is an important industrial and cultural city with a population of over 305 thousands inhabitants.
The activities take place at the community home in Sargėnai (a northern part of Kaunas).
Sargėnai is a quiet calm district with housing development, easily reachable from the center by bus. Community house has a quiet and nice neighbourhood. There is a fort-museum and nice green area nearby, also a big shopping center with cinema, bowling and other activities.
Community home has three floors and a basement. There are few living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, rooms and a hall for activities. The house is surrounded by a nice garden where we grow vegetables.
Role and tasks of the volunteer at L’Arch community
Most of persons with disability are able to take care of themselves and do simple tasks, but still often they need to be attended, motivated, encouraged or guided. Our experience shows that a friendship with a volunteer motivates to learn new things, encourages them to become more socially active.
A volunteer would be asked to assist a person with disability in his/her activities. The typical day and tasks for a volunteer would look like follows:
9:00 Gathering (a volunteer can be asked to accompany persons while they are gathering, occupy them, eg. make a tea together, initiate some small physical exercises, to have a friendly talk...)
10:00 Community prayer (a volunteer is asked to join a prayer that consist of some songs with moves, Gospel, reflection, personal prayer. Depending on volunteer's wish he/she can be involved in organizing or leading a prayer. Note: our community has Christian roots, but it welcomes and respects the beliefs and traditions of coming people and encourages them to deepen their spiritual life, whether or not rooted in a traditional religious affiliation).
10.30 Physical exercises (a volunteer may be asked to help in this activity or sometimes organize it)
Work in groups. Depending on work group, a volunteer might be asked to help in preparing lunch, making handcrafts, working in the garden and other actual works (going to a shop, preparing a feast...)
13.00 Lunch (some persons might need assistance while eating).
14.00 Back to work.
15.30 Cleaning (a volunteer should organize, motivate, coordinate, help in cleaning).
15.45 Relaxation and reflection of a day.
There may occur some special events, feasts, trips or projects where various help of a volunteer might be needed.
A volunteer will have an opportunity to live a friendship with persons with learning disabilities, to learn more about their lives and the ways of communicating with them. Also he/she will experience community life that enriches in social, values, spiritual meaning. It might be a great experience for persons who are planning to build their career in social work sector. If interested, a volunteer will have an opportunity to learn about Lithuanian social welfare system.
A volunteer also has a possibility to improve their social skills, to learn different ways of dealing with conflicts and different emotions.
Also after a while a volunteer might be invited to the team meetings, planning, organizing communal events, he/she would be gradually encouraged to take more responsibilities and initiatives. There is a possibility to self-actualize in taking care of website, management, publicizing.
A volunteer will be supported, monitored and guided by the team. At the beginning a tutor will explain how everything works, answer the questions, leave time to get used. During whole period a volunteer will have personal reflection meetings with the community leader and a tutor. Once a month volunteer meetings are organized where emergent questions are discussed among all volunteers.
A volunteer will be provided of the means necessary for work.
Kaunas l'Arche community will welcome motivated volunteers who would be willing to understand the communal principles of the organization. A volunteer is desired to be positive and open-minded, flexible, active and helpful. Some initiatives from volunteers’ side, discussed with the team, are very welcome. He/she should be open and active in creating relationships with community members. It would be an advantage if a person would have at least some experience with people with mental disability.
We would accept persons over 18 years old.
Recruitment process will include communication by e-mails, Skype or phone calls between an applicant and voluntary coordinator or whole team. If it would be possible, we would like an applicant to visit local l'Arche community before coming, to better understand the basic features of l'Arche communities.
A volunteer would be invited to choose to live either in a community house or in a rented flat with other EVS volunteers. However at least for the beginning we strongly advice to live at community home to experience communal life more intensively and to accustom the routine. There a volunteer would have his own room, common kitchen and bathroom. One meal per day is communal, so a volunteer won't have to care about the lunch.
There is a public transport to center, buses run +/- every 30min. Also there is a possibility to move by bike or come by our minibus that is used to bring some of disabled persons to the house.
The atmosphere in Kaunas l'Arche community is generally warm and friendly. The persons with disabilities are mostly friendly and willing to communicate. At least at the beginning a volunteer will be attended and guided by staff. All present conflicts are being solved by personal or communal reflections, in some cases they might be discussed in team meetings. If needed, the experienced coordinating organization might be also included in conflict solving. The staff is willing to collaborate and together with a volunteer find the solutions for the occurring difficulties.
A volunteer will be introduced with safety rules, principles of the first aid and recommended actions in emergency cases. There is a first aid kit and fire-extinguisher in both venues. All volunteers are insured.
We will be looking forward to your applications as soon as possible!