Based in Beloeil since 1981, the Arche Montérégie is a non-profit organization that welcomes, in its three residences, 17 permanent residents with an intellectual disability and offers them a job in one of its four workshops (art, kitchen, gardening and woodwork).
In each residence, these people share their daily lives with assistants who make sure to support their needs. Through its workshops, the Arche Montérégie wants to encourage the social inclusion of adults with an intellectual disability, by helping them make a significant social contribution through their work and social engagement.
Since 2018, the National Centre for Dance Therapy offers dance therapy (pre-pandemic) and adapted dance (during the pandemic) sessions to its residents. Valentine Uguen, director of the Arche Montérégie, works with all the members of the community and its collaborators to fulfill the mission of the Arche. Below, she answers some questions about the organization and the dance-based activities.
We have multiple objectives that we work year-long. First of all, we want to make known the gift of people with an intellectual disability, which becomes evident in interpersonal relationships. Second, we want to develop a community environment that answers to the changing needs of our members, while staying loyal to our essential values. And finally, we want to bring together our respective cultures and work together to build a more human society.
The inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities is a major project and we are still facing many challenges. But step by step, we are getting there! We are working in collaboration with other organizations to include our members, but also to open up to new people who want to become involved with our community.
I’ll give you the example of Vincent Fafard. He lives at the residence Fleurs de Soleil, with 4 assistants and 5 other residents.
Every Tuesday, he wakes up at 7 a.m., he makes his bed, has breakfast with the other people living in the house, dresses up, brushes his teeth, and gets ready for work. The transport picks him up at 8:20 a.m. to bring him to the woodwork workshop, where the members build garden tanks. Often Vincent sands the boards with the other community members. At 10:30 a.m., it’s coffee time. All the workers get together to take a break and chat before going back to work. At 12:00 p.m., Vincent has lunch with his colleagues, so that they can then keep working with joy and in a good mood! Their transport picks them up at 2 p.m., to bring them back to their residences. Since it’s Tuesday, Vincent then gets ready for his adapted dance class on Zoom with Carol (the professor) at 2:30 p.m. After dancing, Vincent relaxes before a community Zoom with the other residents and those close to the community. It’s then time to have dinner, take a shower and go to bed.
The pandemic has changed the structure of our days, our way of doing things and much more. No non-essential visitor was allowed into the residences, we had to change the planning of the different activities… Some members, coming from the outside, stopped coming to the workshops, because they didn’t want to take any risks, but we haven’t stopped working, in the respect of the health measures. Our fundraising events had to be cancelled. We had to adapt, but I can say with confidence that the creativity and vitality of our community have helped us to live this difficult period with calm.
Art is an extraordinary tool that allows us to come out, leave our comfort zone. The dance-based sessions open doors to unknown aspects of our residents. The sessions are often a source of well-being and joy.
The impact is quite hard to measure… But I can tell you that they wait this weekly appointment with impatience. Adapted dance is now part of their routine and we can see that they feel accomplished practising it. It allows them to relax and let go. I think it’s safe to say that they have let go of their stress and tensions after a session!
We didn’t face any particular challenge. The regularity of the classes ensures that people get attached to it and want to participate.
Just like everyone else, at first we had some small issues adapting to the new format, but we have been able to correct them rapidly. Low-quality sound and small screens… Two small things we improved in the blink of an eye. We used a speaker and a video projector!
Of course we would prefer to have Carol with us in person! But we have been capable to adapt and the members who participated to the sessions in-person are as motivated as ever to join the virtual classes.
There is one moment that comes to mind. At the end of an adapted dance session, Carol has asked if the class went well, if people were happy and if they enjoyed the course. Everyone answered positively and thanked her for the class. And then, Wendy, who lives at the residence La Montagne, has asked Carol if she liked the class as well. It’s a simple event, but it was so moving to see Wendy also take care of Carol by asking that question…
So, thank you to Les Grands Ballets! Thank you, Carol! Together with Wendy, I also hope that you enjoy leading the sessions for our members!