by Olivia Williams
Samford University’s rich tradition of equipping leaders and helping others bore new fruit recently when the university hosted delegations from L’Arche Mobile and Atlanta. The group engaged in a variety of events throughout the day, including visits with a delegation of Micah Fellows, a lunch and learn, a show at Christenberry Planetarium and a private campus tour.
Founded in France in 1964 by Jean Vanier, L’Arche International uses a model where 147 people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together in more than 35 countries around the world. L’Arche Mobile is one of the oldest of 18 communities in the United States. L’Arche Atlanta was founded less than a year ago.
“I had the joy of spending time with the team from L’Arche during their visit, and they all seemed so excited to share the heart behind their community,” said Rachel Clark, a senior human development and family sciences major. “L’Arche is clearly a place full of support and love, and I am excited that Samford has the opportunity to partner with them and advance their mission.“
Clark is president of the Samford’s student service organization, Partners Acting in the Community Today (PACT).
Samford’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership initiated the partnership with the international federation as an opportunity for Samford students to serve alongside L’Arche team members while learning about the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.
“Our overall mission is to facilitate the understanding of character, leadership and moral integrity in our students. The people who work for organizations like L’Arche International model those principles for all of us,” said Drayton Nabers, Mann Center director.
The L’Arche partnership provides Samford students with several ways to get involved, including a spring break service immersion trip, paid summer internships and postgraduate “gap year” opportunities that include room, board and a monthly stipend, Nabers added.
Allison Nanni, Mann Center’s director of community engagement, explained the intentional choice regarding the L’Arche partnership.
“In our walk as people of faith, we have a responsibility to ‘get proximate’ to suffering so that we better understand how to work toward effective solutions to alleviate that pain and injustice,” Nanni said. “Working alongside the L’Arche community provides an opportunity for students to live in community with a group of people with disabilities who have tremendous gifts but are often overlooked and isolated.”
The inaugural cohort of Samford’s Micah Fellows will participate in the L’Arche spring break immersion trip next March, and a limited number of spots will be available to undergraduate and graduate students. The Mann Center will host an information session in February to explain trip details and how to apply, Nanni said.
Micah Fellows is a new Samford honors program focused on Christian service and community engagement.
“My hope is that Samford students take their experience at L’Arche back to the university during their four years and beyond into the rest of their lives,” said Bridget Mulroy, home life leader at L’Arche Mobile.
“L’Arche challenges you to operate your heart in addition to your head,” Mulroy added. “We learn how to live out the heart language. You end up learning a lot about yourself and each other.”
Olivia Williams is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer in the Division of Marketing and Communication.