By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
More than 30 community members of L’Arche Clinton filed into the Clinton City Council Chambers last month to witness their leader, Devin Land, accept the 12th Annual Clinton Human Rights Commission Award on their behalf.
This award is given annually in “Acknowledgement of persons/ groups who embody the spirit of human rights.” L’Arche Clinton, established in 1974, provides advocacy and a sense of dignity to its core members by understanding the “human” side of human rights. L’Arche Clinton is a faith-based nonprofit that supports 16 adults who have intellectual disabilities in family-like homes and apartments. It is one of the oldest of the 18 L’Arche communities in the United States. These communities provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, create inclusive communities of faith and friendship and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries. At the heart of L’Arche are the adults who have intellectual disabilities — known as “core members” — and the relationships that arise from a shared life.
Ed Gall, a friend of L’Arche, nominated L’Arche Clinton for this award and read his nomination letter to those assembled.
“I think that L’Arche Clinton truly does exemplify the mission statement of the Clinton Human Rights Commission, ‘To secure for all individuals within the City freedom from discrimination,’” he read to the crowd. “L’Arche particularly does this with people who are often invisible to many people in our society, providing both advocacy and a sense of dignity. L’Arche Clinton also fulfills the purpose of the award by ‘embody[ing] the spirit of human rights.’”
He continued that human rights are comprised of two parts: rights and humanity. “In many cases, people may be denied human rights not because we don’t think that humans have rights, but because we don’t think that certain people qualify as being human. … L’Arche shows people what it means to be human.”
In L’Arche, Gall sees a “community where people live together, eat together, sing, dance, laugh, tell jokes and understand each other, even if no words are said. A community where people intentionally develop relationships and strive to live at peace with each other. A community that attempts to hear and consider everyone’s voices.”
Jean Bormann, director of development and communications for L’Arche, said the community was honored to receive the award.