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FoundedAugust 4, 1964; 58 years ago (1964-08-04)
Founded at France, Trosly-Breuil
Legal statusNon-profit
PurposeTo build a world where people with and without intellectual disabilities are friends and equals.
HeadquartersParis, France
38 countries
ServicesFaith-based community living, housing, programs, employment, empowerment, and support networks
LeaderStephan Posner
Key people
Jean Vanier/Raphaël Simi/Phillipe Seux, founders
L'Arche Daybreak

L'Arche is an international federation of non-profits working to create networks of community where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together.[1][2] Founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier, Raphaël Simi, and Philip Seux, L'Arche emerged as a reaction and community-based alternative to the ill-treatment and dismal living conditions in the psychiatric institutions of the 1960s.[3][4] Initially formed in the French commune of Trosly-Breuil, it subsequently expanded to over 150 communities in 38 countries worldwide.[5][6][7][8]


L'Arche homes and programs operate according to a not-for-profit "community model" which is distinct from "client-centered", medical, or social service models of care.[citation needed] At L'Arche,

  • people with disabilities, and those who assist them, live together in homes and apartments, sharing life with one another and building community as responsible adults.
  • everyone is believed to have the capacity to grow and to mature into adulthood, and to make a contribution to society, regardless of the physical or intellectual limitations with which they may be living; and
  • the important goals of achieving personal growth and maturing socially as an adult are things which are understood to be nurtured most effectively within the context of a community whose policies and practices support and promote, among other things:
    • the development of long-term, mutual, interdependent relationships;
    • the maintenance of a stable, life-giving home environment;
    • the training and ongoing formation of those who provide assistance to community members with disabilities; and
    • cooperation with outside professional care providers.

L'Arche is a faith-based organization rooted in Christianity, but is open to people of any faith and people with no religious affiliation.[9]


In 1964, through his friendship with Thomas Philippe, a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican Order, Vanier became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. Vanier felt led by God to invite two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institutions where they resided and share their lives with him in a household in Trosly-Breuil, France. He named their home "L'Arche", which is French for "The Ark", as in Noah's Ark. A collection of audiovisual material from L'Arche Trosly-Breuil is available at the University of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto.[10]

The first community in Canada, L'Arche Daybreak, was founded in 1969 in Richmond Hill, Ontario, near Toronto. Sue Mosteller, who lived with the Daybreak community for 40 years, acted as L'Arche's first International Coordinator after Jean Vanier.[11] Dutch priest and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen also lived with the Daybreak community for several years until his death in 1996. He wrote about his experiences with Jean Vanier, L'Arche and the Daybreak community in his books The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey and Adam: God's Beloved.[12][13] The institutional and community archives of the Daybreak community are located at the St. Michael's College, Toronto.[14]

The first community in the UK was founded in 1973 in Barfrestone, Kent, through the efforts of Jean Vanier's sister, Thérèse Vanier.[15] L'Arche Kent has since grown into a community of three traditional L'Arche houses, a gardening project called "The Glebe" and supported living apartments for twelve people with disabilities.[16]

Although L'Arche communities are found in many different cultures and reflect the ethnic and religious composition of the locales in which they exist, they share a common philosophy and approach. People with developmental disabilities and those who assist them live and work together to create homes. The L'Arche Charter says, "In a divided world, L'Arche wants to be a sign of hope. Its communities, founded on covenant relationships between people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture, seek to be signs of unity, faithfulness and reconciliation."[17] The charter further outlines the objectives, the principles and the identity of L'Arche.

All the Communities of the International Federation of L'Arche are committed to living these principles. In March 2008, the international councils of L'Arche and another organization for disabled people founded by Vanier, Faith and Light, met for the first time in joint meeting in Lviv, Ukraine. The international council of L'Arche was represented by 30 people from 14 countries, and the international council of Faith and Light was represented by 19 people from 17 countries, including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, India, Canada, US, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Brazil, Uganda, New Zealand, Philippines, and Italy.[citation needed]


L'Arche communities are funded differently, depending on where they are located. In Canada, the UK, France and other developed countries, they are funded by the relevant governmental body. In less economically developed countries they rely more on local donations and on donations from other L'Arche communities and worldwide.[citation needed]

Sexual abuse investigation[edit]

In February 2020, L'Arche published the results of an investigation which found that Vanier had engaged in "manipulative and emotionally abusive" sexual relationships with six women between 1970 and 2005, under the guise of giving spiritual guidance.[18][19] In response, the organisation stated "we are shocked by these discoveries and unreservedly condemn these actions, which are in total contradiction with the values Jean Vanier claimed and are incompatible with the basic rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles on which L'Arche is based".[20][19]


  • Clarke, Bill (2006). Enough Room for Joy : The Early Days of L'Arche. Toronto: Novalis. ISBN 9782895075547. OCLC 62857326.
  • Downey, Michael (1986). A Blessed Weakness : The Spirit of Jean Vanier and L'Arche. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-062011-0. OCLC 13271482.
  • Nouwen, Henri (1997). Adam: God's Beloved (1st ed.). Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books. ISBN 9781570759949. OCLC 37432875.
  • Nouwen, Henri (1988). The Road to Daybreak : A Spiritual Journey. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385416078. OCLC 17478431.
  • Spink, Kathryn (2006). The Miracle, The Message, The Story : Jean Vanier and L'Arche. London: Darton Longman & Todd. ISBN 9780232525946. OCLC 607715542.
  • Spink, Kathryn (2016). Dance with Me? Life Together in L'Arche. Association Jean Vanier. ISBN 9791097372019.
  • Vanier, Jean (1979). Community and Growth: Our Pilgrimage Together. Toronto: Griffin Nouse. ISBN 9780887601002. OCLC 6277986.
  • Vanier, Jean (1995). An Ark for the Poor : The Story of L'Arche. Ottawa: Novalis. ISBN 9782890887312. OCLC 32546881.
  • Vanier, Jean (1982). The Challenge of L'Arche. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd. ISBN 0232515603. OCLC 476652021.
  • Whitney-Brown, Carolyn (2019). Sharing Life: Stories of L'Arche Founders. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 9780809154319.
  • Young, Frances (1997). Encounter with Mystery : Reflections on L'Arche and Living with Disability. London: Darton, Longman & Todd. ISBN 9780232522327. OCLC 38763519.


  1. ^ Bazinet, Jean-Claude (1995). "Communal Journeys : A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Experience of Living and Working in L'Arche". University of British Columbia.
  2. ^ McDonald, Katherine E.; Keys, Christopher B. (2006). "L'Arche: The Successes of Community, the Challenges of Empowerment in a Faith-Centered Setting". Journal of Religion, Disability, & Health. 9 (4): 5–28. doi:10.1300/J095v09n04_02. S2CID 144384906 – via Taylor & Francis Online.
  3. ^ Sumarah, John (June 1, 1987). "L'Ache: Philosophy and Ideology". Mental Retardation. 25 (3): 165. PMID 3600272. ProQuest 1293572847.
  4. ^ L., Albrecht, Gary (2006). Encyclopedia of disability. SAGE. p. 1024. OCLC 1086259218.
  5. ^ Madden, Nate (March 11, 2015). "Templeton winner hopes L'Arche communities 'may become sign of peace'". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on March 12, 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  6. ^ Coyle, Jim (March 12, 2015). "Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, wins $2.1-million Templeton Prize". Toronto Star. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  7. ^ "L'Arche Builds Community While Shaping Faith | Emory University | Atlanta, GA". candler.emory.edu. Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  8. ^ "L'Arche Homefires celebrates 40 years of community in Wolfville".
  9. ^ Charter of L'Arche
  10. ^ "L'Arche Trosly-Breuil fonds". stmikes.utoronto.ca. University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library, Archival and Manuscript Collections. Archived from the original on December 19, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  11. ^ MacMillan, Carl (December 16, 2011). "Celebrating Sue Mosteller". Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  12. ^ Nouwen 1988.
  13. ^ Nouwen 1997.
  14. ^ L'Arche Daybreak fonds Archived 2014-07-26 at the Wayback Machine held at the John M. Kelly Library, St. Michael's College, Toronto.
  15. ^ Dr. Thérèse Vanier (1923-2014) obituary, theglobeandmail.com; accessed 2 October 2014.
  16. ^ "L'Arche | About L'Arche Kent". www.larche.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  17. ^ "Charter of the Communities of L'Arche". L'Arche International. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  18. ^ "L'Arche International announces findings of Independent Inquiry". L'Arch International. February 22, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  19. ^ a b "L'Arche founder Jean Vanier sexually abused women - internal report". BBC News. 22 February 2020.
  20. ^ "L'Arche International announces findings of Independent Inquiry". L'Arche International. 22 February 2020. Retrieved 22 February 2020.

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