THE HISTORY OF L’ARCHE
The first L’Arche community was founded in 1964 in the small town of Trosly, France in response to the inhumane conditions of the large institutions where people with intellectual disabilities had been placed. That first L’Arche community of just four men at first provided a model for robust L’Arche communities all over the world for the next 50 years.
The First Community Opened
The first L’Arche home opened in Trosly, France in a previously abandoned small cottage. The first community provided a home in the truest sense of the word for its first four inhabitants and was a response to greater society’s call to bring people with intellectual disabilities out of the degrading conditions of institutions. No longer were people with disabilities seen as something shameful that needed to be quarantined, but as full human beings inherently deserving of respect.
L’Arche Landed in the United States
The first L’Arche community in the United States opened in Erie, Pennsylvania. The first home was in a dilapidated neighborhood and those early days were difficult. The founders had to share their personal incomes to sustain the community, while eating “apples and onions” for many of those first community meals.
L’Arche International Formed
L’Arche became an international federation as the second generation of L’Arche leaders began to emerge. L’Arche grew into a truly global movement that continues its mission to this day.
Ten Years of L’Arche in the United States
After ten years in the United States, nine L’Arche communities had opened. The first communities were in Cleveland, OH; Clinton, IA; Erie, PA; Mobile, AL; Seattle, WA; Lynchburg, VA; Spokane, WA; Syracuse, NY; and Tacoma, WA.
L’Arche USA is Founded
L’Arche USA was founded to help support existing communities in the United States and to help guide groups that are interested in founding new L’Arche communities.
L’Arche USA Opens Headquarters in Portland, OR
This small office of only 326 square feet marked a big feat for an organization that was once nothing more than a handful of remote staff members, an answering machine in a kitchen, and a LOT of dedication
Renowned philosopher, writer and humanist Jean Vanier (1928-2019) was the founder of two international organizations for people with intellectual disabilities: L’Arche and Faith and Light. The 154 L’Arche communities in 38 countries and the 1,450 Faith and Light communities in 83 countries are living laboratories of human transformation.
In and outside of these organizations, Jean spent more than four decades as an advocate for marginalized people in society, inviting us to discover the profound transformations that can result from relationships across personal differences.
“What was clear … from the very beginning was the aspect of “living with” people who have [intellectual disabilities], a desire to create family with them.” – Jean Vanier
Jean Vanier was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for his efforts toward the creation of a more just, inclusive, and humane society.
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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.