Twenty-five years ago, local educational leaders pioneered a school system that embraced people with developmental disabilities.
Lock Mawhinney was a well-known educator, principal and pioneer of Special Needs education. Lock realized that efforts to give people with developmental disabilities access to education was only a partial solution. After they left school, they became isolated again, devoid of meaningful relationships outside their families.
Lock found compelling evidence that the lives of these people were enriched by being part of the unique community of inclusion that is L’Arche.
Living In Community
In 2000, Lock Mawhinney and a group of dedicated volunteers embraced this concept and created L’Arche Comox Valley with the opening of Jubilee House in Courtenay. This was followed later by the creation of an Outreach and Creative Arts Centre (now known as the I Belong Centre), which has become a thriving and valuable community resource.
Meaningful work and daytime activity are important to a person’s dignity. By building a community of neighbours, friends and volunteers, the I Belong Centre integrates individuals from the community into a wide circle of caring people through daily, weekly and monthly activities.
Since it opened, The Centre has moved three times in order accommodate the growing number of people who want to be involved. It has become a place where people can participate in creative work, socialize, seek assistance, and use as a home base from which to find volunteer or other employment opportunities in our community.
Jubilee House, situated in Courtenay, is a caring household where several people with developmental disabilities, along with L’Arche assistants, share life and daytime activities together in a family-like setting.
Home life is the cornerstone of L’Arche. Each person contributes as they are able. Meals, birthdays and times of prayer are small but cherished celebrations that strengthen the bond among those sharing the home.
The philosophy of Jubilee House goes beyond inclusion; it is about making the most of life. Living with others emphasizes what people can accomplish, learn and contribute. As in any family, all members of the community are responsible for the group’s well-being.
In 2014, fourteen people with developmental disabilities in the Comox Valley needed residential support, with no suitable housing available at the time.
The Board of L’Arche Comox Valley, with support from a committed group of community leaders, moved forward with a plan to expand the facilities and services of this most important community resource. They envisioned a ” place of belonging”- a facility that includes residences, creative arts programs and outreach services.
In 2014, this committed group launched a successful 3-year capital campaign that led to the realization of this vision. The goal was to raise $800,000 through donations of direct financial support and gifts in kind. Due to the exceptional generosity of the community, the campaign raised $1 million! We’re grateful for the hard work and donations that made it possible for L’Arche Comox Valley to offer expanded supports to our community members with intellectual disabilities.
I Belong! Campaign Executive
Honourary Chair : Murray Presley
Campaign Co-Chair: Dr. Paul Helpard
Campaign Co-Chair: Robert Mulrooney