Today there are 147 communities of L’Arche in 35 countries on 5 continents. In the communities of L’Arche people living with intellectual disabilities, and those who come to help them, share daily life together. For more than 50 years, the experience of L’Arche is that this shared life opens new paths of friendship: the art of living together is born from the creative welcome of the diversity and fragility of humanity.
Jean Vanier met Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two men living with an intellectual disability. They got to know each other, helped each other, and began to build their lives together day by day. Their life together attracted others, who in turn wished to share in the simplicity of that community life. Jean Vanier did not “build” L’Arche, but rather in opening the doors of their home, and in sharing with others about his experience with Raphael and Philippe, Jean invited others to live the same. Thus L’Arche grew organically, the lifeblood being the transformative meeting between people living with intellectual disabilities, and ordinary people.
Now the 147 communities of L’Arche are in 35 countries on 5 continents. They offer homes, workshops, and programs and networks of support depending on the needs of their members and the availability locally of other resources. The communities are supported by local professionals to ensure that quality is offered to their members. They are managed by local nonprofit associations, and for the most part financed with public funds, or, in the poorest countries through a system of international solidarity.
In the communities of L’Arche people living with intellectual disabilities, and those who come to help them, share daily life together. The assisted and the assistants develop mutual relationships
above and beyond the relationships of help and work. Together, the members of L”Arche, with or without intellectual disabilities, build their life together: doing the chores, making decisions, reflecting and assessing, participating in meetings and get togethers, and celebrating, all this with a concern for each other, especially for the most vulnerable members. Each member is invited to participate fully in community life, according to his or her abilities and desires.
People with intellectual disabilities need to be integrated into society as partners, and not just as recipients of care. Our societies desperately need that each one, especially the most vulnerable, become involved in the building of a more humane world. For the past 50 years at L’Arche, we have lived the experience that life shared between people with and without an intellectual disability open new paths to brotherhood: to be different and yet the same, to communicate about the essential with and beyond words, to celebrate integrating the differences, to deepen each one’s spiritual life while respecting each one’s philosophy and religion. L’Arche is able to testify that the art of living together is born in the creative welcome of the diversity and fragility of humanity.