Sunday, March 8, 2020

Coming Home!

Hello friends and family!

We have all arrived safely home from Canada and have enjoyed our time back in the states (hence the late writing of this last post). We started off yesterday (3/7) with heartfelt good-byes at Sherman House. The members and assistants were so kind to us throughout the week and we appreciated every bit of it. We set off for home and stopped at the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, which was exciting as most of group had never been to the Falls before. We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the view of America, which we had missed. The group shopped until they dropped at the souvenir store, too.

Then, we stopped in Buffalo for poutine, as we heard it was a Canadian favorite and had not yet had the chance to get it while over there. We found a place called Poutine and Cream, which had delicious burgers, poutine, and crazy milkshakes. As a group, we tried traditional poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese cords over top it), general Tao chicken over poutine, and BBQ pulled pork over poutine. We were stuffed with food and happiness as we headed home.

Overall, our group meshed greatly and shared many wonderful moments throughout the week. The dynamic as a whole could not have been better and we appreciate all of the assistance from our two facilitators, Brent and Megan. The week truly was beautiful and will be cherished forever.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Day 6 Final Reflection and Exploration

Day 6: Wrap-Up Tour

Today was our last full day in Hamilton, and we took the opportunity to reflect on what we had done thus far on our ABST and explore the area a little more before saying goodbye. We started the morning with another voyage (through a miniature blizzard) to Vintage Coffee. Upon our return, we embraced our inner children and built a snowman in front of the Sherman house. After, we met Karen at the Day Program to talk about our experience and what we learned. Each of us shared two highlights from the week, which led to many laughs and smiles as we all recounted our interactions with different members of the L’Arche community who drew close to our hearts this week.

Next, Karen took us to Café 541, a non-profit restaurant that specializes in serving deliciously-prepared, local and nutritious foods at reasonable prices. The restaurant was intentionally positioned downtown in what was once considered a food desert. Many who you will see in the café are volunteers. Patrons have the opportunity while ordering, to purchase buttons for $1 each, which can be used by other customers to subsidize the cost of their meals. One of our Hamilton core members, Janice, volunteers there, and told us a lot about the organization. The food was amazing and suited all our dietary needs, including gluten free and meatless Fridays for Lent!

From there, we drove along the Escarpment to Dundas where we visited a scenic overlook, and had an impromptu snowball fight. Dundas is home to many waterfalls, and we took a little hike to see one of the larger ones. Dundas is also filmed often for American cinema, and we past many scenes from the Netflix show Good Witch, which Jordan highly recommends. J We also stopped in downtown Dundas and visited a local specialty cheese shop, eco-friendly refill store, and artisan bakery.

After dropping our gracious tour guide Karen back off at the L’Arche Office, we explored Downtown Hamilton on James Street, purchasing knick knacks and locally-sourced goods. While the girls enjoyed the downtown shops and supported the local economy with highly sought-after American currency, the accompaniers enjoyed “a portion of what I am able to eat” all-you-can-eat sushi, an hour and a half before our in-home dinners. Which Brent would like to point out, he successfully finished with no problems (and it was good).

Then, it was back in the van to the Sherman house before going to our respective homes for one last dinner and goodbye with our favorite core members. Our visit was quick as we prepared to decorate cupcakes with the community at the Day Program center with all of our Hamilton homes and friends. The event was a major success, with Jordan being declared the official winner (by Megan and Brent as of writing this blog) for her fondant dog creation. After cleanup, we all came home for a particularly special reflection of our entire experience. What a week!


Brent, Megan, and the L'Arche Ontario group

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Day 5- Trip to Daybreak

     So today, we started a bit slow, and tired with an early morning after Brent had the idea to get an overdue, warm homemade breakfast. After getting to a cute diner called "Three Coins," we all soon realized it was well worth it. We then arrived at today's destination: Daybreak, to get a small tour and history lesson of the area learning that before renovations, it used to be entirely surrounded by farmland. We learned fun facts such as the old barn that was used back in the day is still standing and being utilized today for different programs. We saw incredible architecture beside a welcoming and warm, smile filled environment. Our group was split up to do various tasks soon after arrival. One group had the opportunity to clean out an area for Daybreak and found two exciting hidden treasures while doing so.

(Flaggs from L'Arche Daybreak 25th anniversary)
     This was lovely as Daybreak just celebrated its 50th anniversary recently. They also got to bake and eat delicious cookies while spending time with some core members.

(Pictured here is Lynda a core member)
     Our second group had a bit of a different experience. Jordan, Brent, and Carrie had the opportunity to do some art by painting with some very talented core members. Our focus was on abstract self-portraits that will be entered into an upcoming art show. We then ate lunch and finished up with an 8-minute much-needed meditation where the focus was on the body, anywhere from how your feet are placed on the floor to focusing on your heartbeat.

(Lunch at the art center)
     Our small group then got split off with Brent and Carrie heading to bowling with a core member named Luigi who had the most contagious smile I think I've ever seen. I (Jordan) got the chance to do some baking with the head of the art center, Fran. We followed her own personal recipe for some delicious blueberry muffins that permeated the building with a mouth-watering smell.
     We then headed back to our home for the week (Sherman house). When we got back, David was watching his "all-time favorite show," which happens to be one of my old favorites as well. "Dukes of Hazzard" the episode we watched like many of the others, Bo and Luke Duke were getting in trouble with Boss Hog.
      Lastly, for a long yet beautiful day, we dispersed to our Hamilton homes for dinner. I personally headed to the Cornerstone house with my partners "princess Ariel" and Meghan. We had an amazing dinner cooked by a core member who is very special in my heart. Michael did an excellent job making us his favorite meal to cook; mashed potatoes and drumsticks, which he learned in his weekly cooking classes. We ended the night at our house in true Cornerstone fashion by watching WWE wrestling with Michael.

(Our dinner, by chef Mich
     We ended our day back at Sherman house with our nightly reflection, the common theme tonight was unconditional love, which we have all felt this week in abundance from the L'Arche community. Join us tomorrow to see what adventures we get into.
(Pictured here Micheal and I)

                               -Jordan Chittle and the L'Arche Ontario group

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Day 4: Hamilton Day Program

Today marked the halfway point of our trip and we were all starting to feel the exhaustion of our busy days. To combat our exhaustion, we woke up for an early walk to a local coffee shop, Vintage. To our surprise, we discovered that the shops sells products made from the local L'Arche members. After coffee, we headed to Hamilton's day program.

The program is very relaxed and provides a space where L'Arche core members can socialize and do different activities. They have everything from beads for jewelry making to materials to hand-craft candles. A majority of the crafts that members make are for sale in a small store in the building.

At program today, I spent a lot of time making bracelets and coloring with various core members. It was a nice activity to do to simply be present with the people I was with. It allowed me to center myself and find calm within our busy week. On the other hand, some of us had a hectic morning baking cupcakes with some of the core members. From what I heard, this was a fun but crazy and tiring experience. Make sure to come back to our page on Friday to hear more about what these cupcakes are for!

During the last hour day program, a beloved man named Paul came in for a music therapy session. This was a beautiful hour where we all experienced the joyful singing of each Hamilton core member. It showed the strength and bonds within the community and allowed us to connect with the members in a new way.

Another fun part of the day was the birthday of the core member, Laurence. She is a spunky 78 year-old woman who is full of laughter and life. As she does every day, Laurence had a unique outfit with lots of bling! Today, it was a larger than life necktie reading "Happy Birthday!" We all wished her happy birthday, and Meghan, Ariel, and Jordan had the opportunity to celebrate with Laurence and her house members at dinner.

After day program, we all made our way to the Cornerstone house for worship. This was a beautiful experience that truly brings the community together. We were all very touched by the words of each and every core member that day. What was impactful for me and other members was seeing how much the community at L'Arche cares for its members, even the ones who have past. During each worship service, they honor them and lift them up in prayer. I thought this was powerful because it shows that no one is ever forgotten.
After worship, we went to our separate houses for dinner. I was excited for dinner today because I got to meet a new core member. One of the members of the house had been out of town and returned today. It was nice to meet her and see how everyone in the house interacted and connected with one another. I am in a house that focuses on more independent living than the other houses. It has been interesting to be in this house because these ladies do not have an assistant that lives with them. They do almost everything on their own and are perfect matches for each other. Watching each of the house members interact has shown me how intentional placements within L'Arche are. These ladies fit together like pieces of a pie, and it is beautiful.

As day 4 comes to a close, I bid you goodnight from Carrie and the rest of the L'Arche Ontario team!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Day 3

We started day three by heading over to the Welcome Inn Community Center. It was about a 10-minute drive from the Sherman house. On the way to the Center, we noticed how beautiful the neighborhood was. We were curious about the cost of the homes, so I downloaded Zillow and found out one of the cheaper houses was around $360,000! We were all surprised how expensive the houses were, especially compared to Erie's housing market.

When we got to the Community Center, we were welcomed and given a brief description of what the Center did. On Tuesday, they have a Senior luncheon, and every other day they have a food bank. These are just two of the many services they have for their community. Their motto is asset-based community development. Once we got a sense of what the Community Center does, we divided into two groups. One group stayed at the Center and helped prepare the lunch for the Senior luncheon. The other group went to the New Horizons (a thrift store owned by the Welcome Inn) to help organize the backroom.

The New Horizon group consisted of Brent, Megan, Ariel, Abby, and me. It was a four-minute walk to the store, and we got to see some of the other community centers that Hamilton had to offer. Amanda is the manager of the store, and she gave us a tour of the shop and explained why the community center owned a shop. The main point of the store is not to make a profit, but to allow people to develop skills that they can use in the real world. In addition, it also gives people a place to shop for a pretty reasonable price. Books are $0.50, clothes were about $1-$3, and toys were not priced, they believe that people should not pay much for toys. Abby, Ariel, and I started cleaning out some of the holiday boxes in the back, and while Brent and Megan set up Saint Patrick's day display.

At noon we headed back to the Welcome Inn Community Center. We had a great lunch with some seniors in the community. I had a great opportunity to talk to a woman about what the future holds for the community. In the past few years, a lot of upper-class people started moving from Toronto to Hamilton, causing the housing market to go up. She explains how this made a massive impact on their impoverished community by limiting their affordable housing. They are doing their best to fight off these changes, and she hopes for the best, the community is sticking together through the changes.

After lunch, we headed back to the thrift store to finish up going through the seasonal boxes and talk to Amanda a bit more before we left. After finishing up, we headed back to the Sherman house. None of the core members were back from their day program, so the majority of the group decided to take a quick power nap. When the core members got back from their programs we all hung out in the family room. Two core members showed us the scrapbooks of their life; it was amazing to see photos of them when they were younger. We played some catch with a big ball before heading over to our dinner homes.

Carrie and I ate dinner at the Laddies home. It is three women who live more independently than most of the other L'arche homes. They have an apartment that is attached to the one L'arche home. We caught up with each other before sitting down to dinner; we had pasta with veggies. It was outstanding! After dinner, we wanted to watch the movie Frozen II. However, their DVD player broke, so we asked the conjoining L'arche home if they wanted to watch it all together in their family room. They agreed, and we combined houses for a little movie night. I have never seen Frozen II before, and it was way more than I was expecting. After the movie, we headed back to the Sherman house for reflection and to get ready for bed.

-Ella Rasper

Monday, March 2, 2020

Day two with the L'Arche Community

Greetings from Canada!

Our second day in Canada took us to Toronto! Today we ventured to Toronto for the Sol Express program, where they focus on auditory integration.
We got to know each other through name games, dance breaks, and theatre exercises. At the end of the afternoon, we did tableaus, which are still picture scenes of actions and stories. My personal favorite was the bad breakup tableau. One of the members acted as the cellphone that was thrown onto the floor after being dumped. The mini skits we did have a chance to be performed at Fringe Fest this summer! Naomi's favorite Disney princess just so happened to be Ariel. During one of our games she had me act as a mermaid to get to another chair. I committed to the act for her and gave my best mermaid impression.

After Sol Express, we traveled to Greektown and explored during our free time. Being the Americans that we are, we ended up at a Starbucks. It had this cute little sticky-note drawing display and I couldn't leave without leaving a piece of Gannon behind! Megan also found her ketchup chips that she has been raving about and bought them in bulk. We shared some during our reflection later in the day. It sounds gross, and as someone who does not prefer ketchup, I have to say they were pretty delicious.

We then headed back to L'Arche Toronto for Taize Worship. During worship they had a segment where we had a communal prayer and shared with everyone who to keep in our thoughts and prayers during this week. We then lit candles to represent these prayers. Some of the songs we sang were in Latin! It was the most beautiful thing to be able to witness and hear.

Once worship was over, we headed to our assigned L'Arche homes for dinner. Megan and I headed to the Gamble House where we were welcomed with a handmade card made by the members! They immediately made us feel comfortable in their beautiful home. We discussed the differences between the U.S. and Canada and our 12 passenger van, which Stephen was very intrigued about. It's also safe to say that the members would rather go to Florida than Erie. Before we left, Janet gave us a house tour! In the house, there was a picture frame that had the quote "enjoy the little things." I feel as we often forget this and in the L'Arche community they live this daily. It was a nice reminder and way to end our day.

Until tomorrow,
Ariel & the L'Arche Ontario ABST

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Day one with the L'Arche Community


It was Gannon L'Arche ABST's  1st day in Hamilton, ON! 

     We began our Sunday by traveling to St.Anne's for church. The congregation was very pleasant and the priest had a lovely Canadian accent! His homily on resisting temptation was very pertinent due to the beginning of the Lent season!
     After this, the whole group reconvened at the Sherman House before traveling to the first ever Tim Horton's! David and a member from the Holton House, Mary, joined us. We all ate on the second floor of this massive coffee shop and got to tour the mini museum located upstairs. It was quite a learning curve when we found out that a large coffee here is equivalent to our medium in the US and the medium is equivalent to a small! 

     Once we finished up our coffee and lunch, we all headed to our assigned L'Arche homes. We spent the afternoon in each house getting to know the core members and assistants. We also had our dinner in these homes before coming back to the Sherman house for reflection. 
      Personally, Megan Loibl and I spent the afternoon in the Holton house getting to know the four members there (Ross, Mary, Ron, and Stephen). Ross was very outgoing and welcomed myself and Megan with a hand written note. He also insisted on treating us to a trip to Gage Park ( which has a lovely greenhouse in the center of it) and Tim Horton's coffee! Mary just celebrated her 77th birthday and shared her obsession with Elvis Presley with us. She also accompanied us to Gage Park. Ron stayed more to himself but gave the before-dinner prayer. Lastly, Stephen was mostly non-verbal but loved to give "props" which is an exaggerated fist bump! We had spaghetti with salad for dinner before gathering to hear about the high and lows of the core members. Ross said his high for the week was going to Gage Park with us! He says he is very excited to take us to the library on Tuesday. 
    Tomorrow, we are venturing to Toronto to visit Sol Express. We are all very much looking forward to it!

Until next time, 
 Rachel and the L'Arche Ontario ABST