People with intellectual disabilities are able to touch hearts and to call others to unity through their simplicity and vulnerability. In this way they are a living reminder to the wider world of the essential values of the heart without which knowledge, power and action lose their meaning and purpose.
(Charter of the communities of L’Arche)
L’Arche (French for “the Ark”) was founded in 1964 in Trosly, France by the philosopher and theologian Jean Vanier, along with his mentor Father Thomas Philippe.
Jean Vanier (http://www.jean-vanier.org) is a son of the Governor General of Canada, a professor at the university, who used to to serve in the British and Royal Canadian Navy as an officer. He was invited by his spiritual mentor Father Thomas Philippe to a little village Trosly in France, to the north from Paris. He visited an institution there, where people with disabilities lived, and there his eyes were opened to the institutionalisation of people with intellectual disabilities. Jean was incredibly moved and invited two of the men he met, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institution and come and join him in his own home. Inspired by Noah's Arc, Jean named their house L'Arche (the Ark in French).
This small community soon expanded accepting new people with disabilities and youth who wanted to share their lives with them. Such communities were established in other countries right after this.
Jean remained the leader of the Trosly-Breuil community until 1981 and still lives there now. He had been and still is an inspiring teacher. Many of his friends and students came to visit him and experience this radical new way of living.
Jean also traveled widely, visiting other L'Arche communities, encouraging new projects and hosting lectures and retreats. He has visited Ukraine several times as well.
Jean has received many awards for his work. His books have been translated into 29 different languages. He is also the co-founder of Faith and Light (http://www.fandl.org.ua), a network friendship communities for people with learning disabilities, their families and young people volunteres.