An important part of my time here in Puerto Quito is in ministry to the disabled. Until about 7 years ago, there was no attention or services for the disabled in this area of Ecuador. But then there arrived a new paraplegic Vice-President of the country, Lenín Moreno Garces, who began to raise awareness and take action in support of the disabled. A few years later, Msgr Finbarr O'Leary of the Missionary Society of St James the Apostle began a new project for the disabled that was established as Fundación Amigos del Arca Ecuador (here on Facebook in Spanish). Based on the spirituality of Jean Vanier and the model of the L'Arche organization that he founded, Amigos del Arca strives to offer a sense of integrated belonging and community for the disabled, through a variety of living arrangements, work, and therapies. The disabled here really are the poorest of the poor, and communities like Amigos del Arca offer an opportunity for them to be loved and made aware of the special dignity that they have! My time here with the disabled in Puerto Quito has been dedicated primarily to the spiritual and social aspect of Amigos del Arca, helping to provide every Friday a half-day of dynamic prayer, Gospel reflection on the life of the community and of families with disabled children, and fun social interaction for members of the organization and their families, creating a spiritually-based, family-like environment. My own sister Lisa, who lived and blessed our family for over 27 years until 1994, was severely disabled, so the disabled hold a special place in my heart!
Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed. (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human)