Belonging. That’s what comes to Jeanette Jangula’s mind when she thinks about L’Arche Comox Valley. But Jeanette, a special education teacher for more than 30 years, didn’t know that when she said yes to L’Arche she would become part of the roots of an organization that grows belonging.

 

A Round-About Way

Jeanette loves the Comox Valley. “We took a round-about way of getting here but we’re here to stay,” she says with a smile.

Jeanette and her husband Larry started their adventure in North Vancouver, and with Larry being a member of the RCMP, the couple and their two boys moved several times through Larry’s career. Eventually the family relocated to Courtenay and Jeanette knew she was home. Before long, she found herself at Royston Elementary working with students that had learning disabilities and behavioural needs, and it was there that she met Lock Mawhinney and L’Arche.

Lock Had a Vision

L’Arche Comox Valley started more than 40 years ago thanks to Lock and Joanne Mawhinney. Lock was a well-known educator and the first Director of Special Education for the Comox Valley school district. Over the years Lock, and those who he worked with, came to know many families of children with disabilities and it was realized that providing access to education was only part of a bigger solution. 

The continuing issue was that after people with intellectual disabilities graduated from school — meaning that their friends headed off too — they were left isolated, so many lacking any meaningful relationships outside of their families. So, when Lock heard about L’Arche’s model of community inclusion, he saw it as a path forward. He worked with several like-minded people, and in 1993 the Friends of L’Arche Comox Valley was registered as a non-profit society.

“Lock was my boss at the time,” says Jeanette. “He was a wonderful, determined man. And when Lock believed in something, he was very persuasive.”

Part of the Path Forward

Jeanette and Larry became supporters of L’Arche Comox Valley, with Larry serving on its Board for several years. L’Arche proved to be what the community needed, providing not only friendship, but accommodations with Jubilee House opening in 2000. Then in 2006 a community centre was formed to welcome a wider group. The strong response to both housing and the community centre showed the need for greater support for people with diverse abilities in the Valley.

Jeanette continued to be involved with L’Arche, and in 2012 a fundraising campaign was kicked-off for the I Belong Centre — a larger multi-use facility with suites for adults who were able to live independently with some support. Jeanette sat on a committee focused on raising funds to help make the I Belong Centre a reality, and before long she was on the Board, eventually transitioning to Chair.

 

By-products of Belonging

When asked why she has stayed connected to L’Arche for so long, Jeanette talks about the feelings of belonging that come with L’Arche. “There are many things that have changed through the years but the dedication and caring that people show L’Arche is amazing, and that comes from belonging.” Jeanette says she’s impressed by how open people are to listening to other opinions and the level of respect that is shown.

And while Jeanette has been on the Board for more than eight years – Chair for three of those years – she says it’s important that new people bring their skills and talents. “We welcome people from all walks of life. It’s beneficial for L’Arche and it’s an opportunity to grow personally if you are open to it.”

Daphne Crowther, our current Chair brings a wonderful perspective to the role. I know the Board will continue to do great things for L’Arche and Comox Valley.”

Jeanette is still committed to L’Arche, sitting on a committee that manages fundraising events, and she volunteers whenever she can. Watch for more stories about the history of L’Arche Comox Valley and some of the people who have supported the vision of L’Arche along the way.

Want to learn more about L’Arche Comox Valley? Visit our website. You are welcome to join us for one of our many events and activities, to volunteer or donate. We would be happy to welcome you.