Solidarity is a Gift
by Diana Busch, long term community member
I am thankful to my community leader, board of directors and regional coordinator for their permission to travel to El Arca to enable me to experience L’Arche in another culture. I am grateful to the core members, assistants and friends of El Arca, the L’Arche community in the Dominican Republic, for their gifts of friendship and hospitality.
My time as an El Arca assistant was wonderful, scary, a time to learn about my values and challenge my boundaries and an opportunity to know how it feels to be a minority member in a society. There were times when I wondered with amazement how their community continued to exist with no federal or municipal funding and limited resources in general. There were times of limited or no electricity and water, intense heat and limited fresh produce. There were also times of music, dancing and prayer that, while presented with a lot of Caribbean flair, reminded me much of home.
Several of the core members, especially my Dios con Nosotros housemates Rosiña, Audris and Emmanuel helped me feel at home. They didn’t seem bogged down with my limited language skills and were eager to hear about L’Arche Tahoma Hope. Rosa even tried to teach me her native Portuguese!
There were times of intense loneliness. I understand better now what it is like for some of our foreign assistants when they first arrive. Everyone was polite but few assistants took time to talk with me as conversations required simple language or took longer due to my need to seek clarification from them or references to my dictionary. Over time, as my grasp of Spanish and the Dominican dialect increased, there were more discussions.
Over several weeks I had opportunities to visit the homes of two of the assistants, community leader, a board member, a friend of the community and the assistant zone coordinator. These invitations helped me feel more at home and enabled me to learn much about the culture. I especially enjoyed attending the baptisms of the niece and nephew of my friend and housemate Griselda.
Due in part to a growing illness, homesickness, and difficulty in adapting to certain aspects of the culture, I came home early. It was a tough decision. I think about El Arca often and pray for their community regularly. The experience has helped me to appreciate Tahoma Hope even more. I also feel more connected to the international body of L’Arche.