Each year at Christmastime, I identify a particular charity that fills an important need in a community. I usually choose one that I have a personal connection to, having visited the facility and/or have had a close friend or family member working there, and the charity must be in line with my personal values of helping people who truly need help. If you wish to give a Christmas gift to charity this year, I truly hope you’ll consider this group.
L’arche Tahoma Hope is a small group of four homes in the Tacoma, Washington area. These homes open their doors to adults with mental development disorders, providing them a place to live in a communal environment with their peers and with a staff that lives on-site with them. typical home consists of four to ten people – assistants plus “core members,” where core members refers to the developmentally challenged individuals living there.
I’ve personally visited one of these homes. The one I visited had six developmentally disabled individuals living there, along with five assistants. At any given time during waking hours, two to three of those assistants were always involved with working with the core members.
What did they do? The home had a very large garden, and the assistants and core members all worked together as a group in that garden, raising vegetables and flowers that they would either consume themselves or sell to the public as a fundraiser. The more technical tasks were performed by the assistants and they also provided a lot of emotional support and friendship to the core members, who were largely involved with picking the vegetables and weeding and such.
The group also made paper mache flower pots for the plants out of flour, colored water, and newspaper. These actually turned out quite well, and if it were not for the fact that I was thousands of miles from home, I would have purchased one for myself.
At meal times, all of the core members and all of the assistants that were present would eat together around a large table as a group, sharing food and talking about their day.
I will be the first to admit that I do not have the spiritual fortitude or patience to do this job. I simply could not live there with the patience required day in and day out, and I am deeply thankful that there are people out there who do have that kind of patience and caring for others.
The truth is that most people don’t have that level of patience and most families do not have the support structure that is needed to provide for individuals with mental development disorders. For the most part, these individuals come from loving families who simply recognize that they don’t have the patience or the ability to truly care for them.
These homes provide a quality of life for individuals with mental development disorders that they simply could not find anywhere else in the world. They’re in an environment with their peers, where they’re not seen as outcasts, and with individuals who care enough about their situation to wish to live there and help them in many one-on-one situations.
I know that if I had a child with similar disabilities, I would truly hope that in adulthood, they could find a situation like L’arche to live in, and I am truly thankful that such places do exist and that there are people out there with enough spiritual and mental strength to work and live there, making a better life for people who weren’t given the same tools and abilities we were given at birth.
If you’re thinking of making a charitable donation this year for Christmas, please consider donating to L’arche Tahoma Hope Community. Take some time to visit their website and find out more about the amazing and life-transforming work that goes on there.
Furthermore, I will match all donations by my readers, dollar for dollar, up to $1,000 between now and December 25, 2007. All you have to do is donate to L’arche Tahoma Hope Community via JustGive.org and then forward the receipt of your donation to me – you can delete any personal information from this receipt if you wish. So, if you donate $20 to L’arche Tahoma Hope this year, I’ll match it and that gift becomes $40, and so on.
If you’d like, you can read about my 2006 charity drive for the Child Abuse Prevention Center of Dallas County, Texas.