Ade is a live-out assistant with L’Arche Brecon. Having never experienced community life before, being part of L’Arche has helped her to grow. 'Coming here has made me realise you don’t have to hide away. You can be who you are and everyone will accept you.'

I worked in Aldi for about a year and a half before I came to L’Arche. My aunt was registered manager here at the time. I didn’t know much about L’Arche but she asked me to come and visit, and it seemed like something I’d enjoy.

I had also done a placement at a special needs school just down the road and I absolutely loved it there so I knew that working with people with additional needs was something I wanted to do. I found it so rewarding. I just didn’t know how to get into it because I didn’t finish my college course in childcare - so here I am.

If I hadn’t had experience in the school then my first days at L’Arche would have been quite overwhelming. But it just felt kind of natural. I’m quite good at communicating differently with people.

Before I had no experience of community living at all. At first I thought it was so weird how everybody lived together. But now I really appreciate it. I love how it works. It’s beneficial for everyone. 

I think it doesn’t seem like the norm now because [with other care providers] it’s more like staff and service users. At L’Arche it’s more like friends. We are people with learning disabilities and assistants, but I see it more as being friends.

Working here you don’t see core members as core members because you know they’re giving as much to you as you're giving to them. If one of our core members were to leave I’d find it tough. It’s so different when one of them isn’t here. 

With Steve you have to be very animated, joking around. That’s just me anyway. I remember when I first got here and he was quite stubborn and didn’t want to do anything. Just getting to know him and spending time and being able to communicate in the right way really helped. I’ve been here for just over a year and its only in the last couple of months that Steve started calling me Ade – although he still calls me Isabel sometimes! It’s quite nice when he does call me by my name now. He’s a nice man.

I really like community events where everyone’s together. I have no idea why because they’re so chaotic. I love how everyone pitches in whether they’re working or not. Everyone just does everything together and we all get on.

Also it's important to me how much more confident I am now. The majority of that is because of L’Arche and how much more accepting everyone is here.

At first I was nervous because I thought that the only people who worked here were Christians and I’m not a Christian. But everyone told me it doesn’t matter, it's okay. Through visiting different communities and going on retreat I realise actually there are lots of people working in L’Arche who are not religious at all. That makes me feel more at ease. I realise I’m not the only one, and it's okay.

I really quite like the retreats. I love meeting people in different communities and talking about how they do things. It gives you an insight into the different communities and how you can do your job better here. 

L’Arche is about understanding equality. Everyone is the same. Coming to L’Arche has given me so much more confidence in myself. When I first came I was really shy. Coming here has given me more confidence and brought me out of my shell. It has made me realise you don’t have to hide away. You can be who you are and everyone will accept you. 

We are all the same. We are not superior to anyone with a learning disability; we just need to find different ways to help people live a better life than what they otherwise would be. It’s just so rewarding.

To anyone who wants to try it – just try it and don’t be scared. Everyone is very accepting here. It’s a nice place.