Education is an important part of L’Arche. Today many young people thirst for a vision of society that is just, inclusive and compassionate.
In 1998, L’Arche Daybreak initiated a high school retreat program for teenagers. Held in the Dayspring, these retreats are attended by 2,000 students each year.
Through the leadership and storytelling of core members, students get a glimpse of how L’Arche communities provide a model for living unity through diversity, and strength through interdependence. Our focus is to reflect on the topic of power and powerlessness, which generates much interest and discussion among young people.
Students are invited to be critical observers of mainstream culture – its influence upon how we experience our own vulnerability – as well as how we see and treat vulnerable people in the world.”
Learning about Power: L’Arche Student Retreats
The students on the far side of the circle sit a little taller as Michael Arnett, with halting speech, singles out one of them: “Yu-you in the yellow…Wh..what do you th…think?” he asks.
Michael is confident and intent on his message as he addresses this group of 30 young people-Grade 12 students participating in one of the more than 50 student retreat days provided to 1500 students by L’Arche Daybreak last year.
L’Arche offers these retreats because it knows that people like Michael have something to teach young people, and because it is committed to supporting situations that give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to be heard. The student retreats are in such demand that schools book them a year in advance. Given by L’Arche teams of one or two core members and an assistant, the retreats explore the theme of power, who has it and who gives it. Today, Liska Stefko is leading the retreat with the assistance of Amanda Winnington-Ingram and Michael, who talk to the students about community life and discovering how to live together, to love and forgive, and to help one another discover their vocation. Students work with questions on their own self-understanding, their perception of others, and of who has power. At the conclusion of this retreat these students commented that while Mike and Amanda might seem to have less power, they are powerful in the way they overcome challenges that many people don’t have, are unafraid to speak publicly, and are not bitter or self-pitying.
Beth is a long term member of L’Arche Daybreak. She wrote this article for the L’Arche Canada Foundation.
To request further information about booking a student retreat, please contact Dayspring at firstname.lastname@example.org.