In 1964, a French Canadian Catholic, Jean Vanier, started an organization called LʼArche which is the French word for The Ark (that saved Humanity). He gave up a successful career to dedicate his life to the care of mentally disabled adults after he witnessed the appalling conditions in which these people were living at that time in France.
The first LʼAche Community was in a house in a small village, Trosly-Breuil, outside of Paris. Jean Vanier invited 2 men taken from institutions to live with him there and from that first home LʼArche has grown into an international movement with 149 communities in 39 countries across the globe.
Jean Vanier teaches that vulnerability and imperfections are not to be viewed as obstacles but rather catalysts to strong and nurturing relationships. LʼArche communities reflect the views that people with disabilities possess inherent qualities of welcome, wonderment, spirituality and friendship and can serve to teach us in the competitive world, the true meaning of life- to love and to be loved.
LʼArche first came to the U.S in 1972 with the opening of the LʼArche Community in Erie, PA. Since then there are now about 19 LʼArche Communities in the US. with several more in development. Core Members – people with intellectual and developmental disabilities- live together with assistants enjoying a simple and transforming life.
L’Arche communities in the United States provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, create inclusive communities of faith and friendship, and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries.
We are people sharing life in communities belonging to an International Federation. Our mission is to make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities, working together toward a more human society. In 2016, L’Arche, with 149 communities, 20 projects in 38 countries worldwide.