"We believe that each human being has the capacity to grow and fulfil their potential for contributing their unique gift to the world. People with intellectual disabilities have gifts that are needed by our world. We have a stated mission to share these gifts."
L'Arche (French for "The Ark") began in 1964 when Jean Vanier invited two men, who were confined within a local institution because of their intellectual disabilities, to come live with him. Together they shared a small house in the French village, Trosly-Breuil, north of Paris which became their home. From this simple beginning, L'Arche has grown to 149 communities, 14 projects in 37 countries worldwide.
The first community in Ireland was founded in 1978 in Kilmoganny, County Kilkenny. Since then, communities have been established in Belfast, Cork, Dublin. More recently, a community is at the project development stage in Sligo. L'Arche in Ireland is currently home to over fifty people with intellectual disabilities and the assistants with whom they share life. The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, in her remarks at the Millennium celebration of L'Arche, Faith and Light, Faith and Friendship and Faith and Sharing, said:". . . If you want to see Ireland at its best. If you want to see God's people at their best. If you want to see His work done well - Yes, this is the place to be".
L'Arche Identity Statement
• We are people with and without intellectual disabilities, sharing life in communities belonging to an international federation.
• Mutual relationships and trust in God are at the heart of our journey together.
• We celebrate the unique value of every person and recognize our need of one another.
L'Arche Mission Statement
• To make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities revealed through mutually transforming relationships.
• To engage in our diverse cultures, working together to build a more humane society.
• To foster an environment in communities that is inspired by the core values of our founding story and that responds to the changing needs of our members
"The essence of our communities is this ‘living with.’ We are called, certainly, to serve with all our ability and to help those who are weaker to develop, but the foundation of this helping is found in friendship and the communion of hearts, which allows us all to grow."
Jean Vanier, L'Arche founder
Home Life In L’Arche
We create home together. This means living, celebrating, caring for one another, building our home environment through daily life: shopping, cleaning, and cooking. We share our lives in all their ups and downs. We care for one another. Some of us need physical care, while others need other sorts of care. None of this just happens. Like any home, living in L’Arche can be joyful and life-giving. Equally, it can be difficult and exhausting. The relationships between all of us are based on friendship and respect, rather than ‘care-givers’ and ‘care-receivers’. Activities such as personal care, bathing, personal hygiene, shopping and travelling may all require the supportive presence of another. But core members (people with intellectual disabilities) and assistants do these things together and as part of normal daily life.
We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other festive occasions together. Through gatherings in our individual communities and between other L’Arche communities, friendships develop, adding richness to our lives. We are also very much part of our local neighbourhoods. Friends and neighbours drop in for a coffee and a chat and also join us for bigger community events.
Life Outside of the Home
A social network and involvement in the larger local community is an important aspect of life for everyone. Here at L'Arche, we encourage our members to become engaged in activities outside of their L'Arche home. These may include involvement in organisations such as Special Olympics. Some members may hold a paid position at a local business or attend courses at local colleges. Nearly all of our core members are involved in some form of daily work programme. These work programs provide valuable and meaningful activity, including vocational and life skills training for the participants. L'Arche itself operates workshop programmes within some of our communities.
Philosophy of Care
We provide a service of care and support for our community members who have intellectual disabilities. We are committed to ensuring the greatest quality of life that enables each one to achieve their full potential. We work in partnership with the relevant authorities to ensure that our practices are in compliance with the highest international and national standards.
We believe that, in common with other people, those with intellectual disabilities should have many different contexts for living to choose from. L’Arche communities provide another choice for people with intellectual disabilities. We believe that this option is an important one for people with intellectual disabilities as a context for living. Our values include mutual rights and responsibilities between people of all abilities sharing their lives in community together.
In L’Arche, we share life together in community. By community we mean a group of people of different ages, creeds, capacities and social and ethnic backgrounds connected to one another through a belief that everyone, irrespective of their circumstances, is unique, precious and important in the world. In our communities people with and without intellectual disabilities choose to share life together in a spirit of friendship. For all of us community is a place of growth.
Reciprocal / Supportive Relationships
At the heart of our life together are mutual relationships. We are not simply givers or receivers of care, rather each of us gives and receives and has the potential to grow through this subtle process. We are more than a service-provider. Our communities provide friendship, love, support and the opportunity for mutuality: basic needs of every human being. We see each person as a whole human being, rather than just a consumer and recipient of service.
We have a tradition founded on Christian values and principles. Within each of our homes and in each of our communities, time is set aside for individual and communal prayer. Ties to local parishes and churches are maintained and everyone is encouraged and supported to pursue an active spiritual life. We welcome people of any or no religious beliefs. We simply ask that those who come, respect what they find.