Do Small Things With Great Love

In the previous two contributions I wrote about the beginnings of Ark (here) and about the importance of celebrations (here), which are a vital part of community life. This time, I will briefly describe what are our responsibilities and what do the volunteers and assistants do at the Ark. Jean Vanier, founder of  the Ark, once wrote:

“God has not called us to do great things. He called us to do ordinary things with great love.”

I like this idea. It often happens that people, who enter the community, would like to start changing things, make a ‘great job’, to give a special touch to the community.

Within two years spent on the Ark, I’ve learned that it is often enough just to be there and present. Cleaning, preparing meals or just sit with the person with disorder, having an opened heart and without great expectations, those are ‘big’ things that community needs the most.

Our slightly adjusted assignments

Given that we’re staying in the house only until the end of June, our tasks are somewhat customized. At departing, we explained to Marinella that in addition to volunteering, we will dedicate some time to Operando, writing texts, blogging and occasionally having meetings in Rome with heads of other charitable initiatives (recently we met with the Jesuit Alessandro Maneresi, responsible for the volunteers at the Centre Astalli, devoted exclusively to the problem of refugees).

Preparing breakfast and dinner

Silva cleaning the hallway in the upper floor

Our main activity here is to prepare breakfast and dinner for the people in the house, a total of 16 people. This of course consists of washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen after every meal.

During weekdays, lunches are prepared at the workshops, where food is prepared by real chefs or occasional volunteers (friends of the Ark as they call them here).

…and occasional cleaning of premises

Occasionally we clean up the rooms and toilets on the upper floor where people live. The rest of the time we are free and can dedicate ourselves to Operando.

As we were explained, this way we substantially relieve the assistants, who in addition to regular housework are also responsible for the monitoring of persons (for persons with mental difficulties we will use the word ‘person’ from now on).

They would otherwise be called ‘ragazzi’ and ‘ragazze’ – boys and girls, while the rest of us are called either volunteers or assistants.

The reception of volunteers

Nace cooking risotto with vegetables and curry

Just briefly on  what is the usual procedure to accept a new volunteer who later can become a full-time assistant.

Any newcomer must first be included in a three-month trial period. This is a period of time when he may be well acquainted with the community, house rules and other volunteers and assistants.

During this time, they perform simple tasks of cleaning and preparing meals. Within three months he can get the feeling and evaluate whether this is fit for him and community can also assess whether he is able to perform such work.

After trial period

Many new volunteers, young and old, three months after they realize that they are attracted to the community then extend their stay for a whole year and beyond. Some leave after three months, which is of course quite normal as well.


During his stay and work in the community, the individual receives a cash prize, which here amounts to € 200 in the first year ans a little more in second year. Later, as if often the case, some are employed full time, which means that an individual receives regular payment for their work.

Ark has quite a few employees who have been with the community for many years. Some of them are living within the community, in the houses, together with the persons, while others live off the ark and come daily to the community, as like any another job.

Open for everyone

Celebrating Marilena’s birthday

The Ark is beautiful because it is completely open to everyone, no matter where he/she comes from and how old he/she is, regardless of their political, religious or racial affiliation.

Quite a few people come form other countries. Aina responsible for Ulivo (the house in which we live as we), for example, is a Lithuanian. Lorenz has just arrived and comes form France. He has traveled the world and lived in other Ark communities (in Canada, England and Brussels). Now he intends to stay here for a year or two.

People who come from abroad, often do not speak Italian nor good English. Luckily, Franca, a retired teacher, is visiting Ark and she gladly teaches Italian. At present the class consists of two pupils, Marius from Romania and Silva. 🙂

Young people in school of life

Young people are coming to community as well, currently the youngest is only 19 years old. It is nice to see young people who opt for such work. I am happy for him because I know how great school of life Ark can be.

The volunteer’s and assistant’s assignments

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Marius and Silva in Franca’s classroom

Working week for volunteers or assistants is similar to ours. The only difference is that each of them can have a day off per week and one free weekend per month.

During the day, their work schedule is something like this: In the morning, wake up all the people, helping them to dress and with the hygiene, afterwards accompanying them for breakfast.

After breakfast (usually at 8.30 AM), persons leave for the workshops, where they will be staying until lunch (more about their work in our next post). Meanwhile, volunteers and assistants clean the kitchen, rooms, toilets and corridors and do other important tasks until 11 AM.

From 11 AM to 5 PM they are free. From 5 PM on, when persons return from siesta, they help them in the house accompanying them, they take them for a walk, prepare meals, play with them, talk to them or go with them for various activities outside the house.

At approximately 7.30 PM they are having dinner, then clean the table and kitchen together and at 10 PM they escort the persons to their rooms for sleep. Me and Silva are also more or less involved in these activities, so that we will be able to experience the dynamics of Ark’s everyday life.

Some need more help than others

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Marius from Romania with Lucia (Lulu)

I will write more about persons with disability who live in the house in the following posts, now perhaps just a description of their different levels of disabilities.

Some may be able to take care of themselves and need only a few guidelines or the presence of an assistant. While others are more affected and in need of various forms of assistance, from changing diapers, hygiene, assistance with feeding, etc.

In our house there are currently more persons in need of some major help, so reliable assistants are all the more necessary.

Would you like to become a volunteer at the Ark in Rome?

In the last few days we got some of your emails questioning us on volunteering at the Ark. Here in Rome, new volunteers can be accepted, so you have all the possibilities to make contact with them.

Perhaps now even easier as we can help each other while we are still here. Send us an email at and we’ll be happy to help you out. We’re grateful for all your encouraging messages, happy also because you regularly read our posts. Thank you for the first donations dedicated to Ark in Rome!


P.S. If you have any questions, you can write us by a comment below on this article. Of course you can also share this post with your friends via social networks.

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