Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
In this study, I explore what it means to be a child of L’Arche from a combined narrative and autoethnographic approach. L’Arche is an international federation of intentional communities where individuals with a developmental disability and non-disabled individuals live together in the spirit of the Beatitudes. While much is written about the history and philosophy of L’Arche, and the personal experiences of its adult members, L’Arche’s narrative does not include the voice of its children. Therefore, my study aims to give voice to the stories of L’Arche children so they may be included in the narrative of L’Arche. It is also my intention to highlight and celebrate the diversity among our stories. I conducted narrative interviews with 10 former L’Arche children from Canadian communities who shared their personal stories of growing up in L’Arche. My narrative participants (six women and four men, currently between 20 and 38 years of age) spent between 9 and 21 years of their childhood (and beyond) in one or more L’Arche communities. As a former L’Arche child, I used autoethnography to map my story of L’Arche. I also conducted three key stakeholder interviews with long-time L’Arche members (two men and one woman, each with 32-33 years of lived experience at L’Arche) who provided additional context for our stories. In my Findings section, I present summary stories for each narrative participant (including my own), and I share the many important themes that emerged from them. These themes highlight how the historical and countercultural context of L’Arche played an important role in shaping our experiences (safety issues and sexual abuse especially took an important role in this discussion). The themes also name our needs as children, adolescents, and members of family. They speak of our deep spirituality and the many choices we face as children of L’Arche. Finally, they celebrate our strong sense of connection and meaningful relationships, and name the many ways in which L’Arche has made us who we are. I approached my Discussion section from an ecological perspective to explain how the themes and issues named in our stories were played out on multiple levels. This ecological explanation is focused on the following encapsulating themes: (a) sexual abuse at L’Arche, (b) difference, (c) sense of community, and (d) narrative, stories of identity. I also name the resulting implications for L’Arche and parents of L’Arche children, and propose seven basic principles that contribute to a healthy childhood in all intentional communities, not just L’Arche. Finally, I express my commitment to share this new knowledge with L’Arche and to assist L’Arche children in reconnecting with each other.
Currie, Caroline A., "Becoming: Stories of L'Arche children" (2005). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 769.