L'Arche is an international private voluntary organization that works for the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier and Pauline Vanier, welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil, France. Today, it is an international organisation operating 153 communities in 38 countries, and on five continents.[1][2]

Motto"Changing the world, one heart at a time!"
FoundedAugust 4, 1964, by Jean Vanier, France
TypeInternational not-for-profit organization
  • Worldwide in 38 countries
ServicesOperating homes, programs, and support networks with people who have developmental disabilities
Key people
Jean Vanier/Raphaël Simi/Phillipe Seux, Founders

Worldwide, L’Arche is organized into regional and national groupings of independent, locally operated agencies which it calls “communities." Each L'Arche community normally comprises a number of homes and, in many cases, apartments and day programs as well.[citation needed]

The L'Arche CommunityEdit

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.[3][4]


In 1964, through his friendship with Father 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7][8] The institutional and community archives of the Daybreak community are located at the St. Michael's College, Toronto.[9]

The first community in the UK was founded in 1973 in Barfrestone, Kent, through the efforts of Jean Vanier's sister, Thérèse Vanier.[10] 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.[11]

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."[12] 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, USA, 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]


  • 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. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Coyle, Jim (March 12, 2015). "Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, wins $2.1-million Templeton Prize". Toronto Star. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  3. ^ Monckton, Rosa (May 21, 2015). "A hero with a lesson in love for Britain... The inspiring story of a man who treats society's loneliest souls like his own family". Mail Online. Daily Mail. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  4. ^ Charter of L'Arche
  5. ^ "L'Arche Trosly-Breuil fonds". stmikes.utoronto.ca. University of St. Michael's College, John M. Kelly Library, Archival and Manuscript Collections. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  6. ^ MacMillan, Carl (December 16, 2011). "Celebrating Sue Mosteller". Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  7. ^ Nouwen 1988.
  8. ^ Nouwen 1997.
  9. ^ L'Arche Daybreak fonds Archived 2014-07-26 at the Wayback Machine held at the John M. Kelly Library, St. Michael's College, Toronto.
  10. ^ Dr. Thérèse Vanier (1923-2014) obituary, theglobeandmail.com; accessed 2 October 2014.
  11. ^ "L'Arche | About L'Arche Kent". www.larche.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-09-08.
  12. ^ "Charter of the Communities of L'Arche". L'Arche International. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2008.

External linksEdit

National L'Arche WebsitesEdit

An up-to-date listing of all national L'Arche headquarters can be found here.

Below is a list of direct links to some of the key national L'Arche websites:

Regional L'Arche WebsitesEdit

L'Arche Community WebsitesEdit

Below is a list of direct links to some L'Arche community websites:

Other L'Arche-related resourcesEdit