Newsletter 2, November 2019

P1010325 Hello! My name is Marion, and I joined L’Arche Kenya five years ago. Currently, I am working as a workshop assistant in the crafts workshop. There, the core-members (that’s how we call our friends with intellectual disabilities)  make cards, paper bags and other items. Here is my personal story of transformation.

After my graduation as a social worker, I started working in Eldoret, a town in Western Kenya, for an organisation dealing with street children. After some time, I felt the need for a change; I wanted to grow. So I went to Nairobi where I worked for a while in a children’s home.  But it was difficult, by then I was a single mother. They never paid me, and I had to take care of my little baby. So I left and came to my sister who was living in Nyahururu.

I started to look for a job, but there were not many organisations that worked in my professional area. I heard of St. Martin CSA, but also learned that they were only looking for volunteers and I needed a paying job. 

At the same time, I went through a difficult period myself. Being a single mother is not easy, and the relationship with my sister and my extended family deteriorated rapidly. I got more and more depressive. At one point, I moved out of my sister’s house, so I had to organise myself. Luckily, I received some money form the father of my daughter. This allowed me to rent a small house and start a small business, selling food and snacks to students. But I found out that I’m not a businesswoman, I wanted to work in the social sector. So I still applied at one or two organisations, but they all didn’t take in new staff, and one of them sent me to St. Martin CSA. There they confirmed to me that they were only looking for volunteers. But the reception the staff gave me was so welcoming and loving that I kept coming every day, just for the sake of talking with someone and sharing my story. You know, after the rupture with my family, I got very lonely and more and more depressive, to a point where I was thinking of suicide.

The first hug

lar1And then I met l’Arche Kenya. It was on a Tuesday-Prayer [1], and at first, I was shocked: Who are those people that are jumping and shouting and disturbing the others in their singing and praying. On this day they were also saying good-bye to one man with intellectual disability who was travelling to Europe. So a woman, also a core member of L’Arche,   stood up and crossed the whole room to hug this man. This scene really hit me; I was in tears. I so wanted to be the person that was being hugged, without any prejudices or regard of what or who I am. This was how I felt inside: broken and desperate and in need of love. 

My business wasn’t going very well, so I stopped coming to St. Martin CSA and tried to find other possibilities to generate an income. One day I was collecting firewood in the forest, my latest attempt for starting a business, when St. Martin called me and told me that L’Arche Kenya has an opening and I  should apply. But I didn’t. In the following day, several people of St. Martin CSA called me and really urged me to apply. So finally, I brought my documents to the L’Arche office, one hour before the deadline. And I was struck about the level of care I received. 

They asked me if I needed a place to stay for the night and if I had someone to look for my child if I got the job. And when I got it, they organised a big welcome celebration with hugs, gifts and a cake and paid me a good salary. I think I cried for the whole evening; I was so happy. Nobody was asking me where I came from or why I was a single mother. They just accepted me as I was, without prejudice or concerns. And I decided to give this acceptance, this trust and love back to the people around me. 

And I quickly found my first task. I began to realise that I had put much of my frustrations, my pain and my guilt on my daughter. I had become an awful mother. So I went home and hugged her. And she asked me: “Mama, why are you giving me a hug?” I knew then that there is another journey of transformation waiting for me. 

Making Known the Gifts of People with Intellectual Disabilities

lar2L’Arche Kenya is part of the International L’Arche Federation that started in 1964 in France. At its core lies the conviction that people with and without intellectual disabilities can live a normal life together, develop relationships and through them transform each other to the better. There are 154 l’Arche communities in 54 countries, three of them in Switzerland (Fribourg, Versoix and Dornach). 

L’Arche Kenya was founded in 2008 and has two homes where 12 people with intellectual disabilities – the so-called core-members – live together with an equal amount of assistants. During the day they all work in different workshops to find and improve their skills and talents and to show the society how they can contribute to it. 

And what is my role at l’Arche Kenya?

The story of Marion is a good example for the intention of l’Arche Kenya: To give the core-members a family and a meaningful life and at the same time, let them change our lives. My task is it to help to tell these stories of transformation. For this, they need to be written down and prepared in a suitable form for the desired media, like for this newsletter, for example. It’s thereby essential that I am not the only one to do this. Hence I’m organising different workshops to train the staff in the different areas of communication. 


With kind regards



[1] The staff of St. Martin CSA meet every Tuesday for prayer to start the week and for general announcements.