What is L'Arche?


L'Arche in a nutshell

L'Arche are places where adults with an intellectual disability and those who accompany them, the employed "assistants" or civic service programme volunteers, live and work together. 

These communities, which fall within the medico-social sector, offer all their members the chance to be connected by inter-personal relationships which go beyond the mere support relationship. In L'Arche, we try to "live with" people with a disability, rather than "do for" them. 

Each L'Arche community is based on three dimensions: the community dimension, the professional dimension and the spiritual dimension.

The project


The community dimension

By sharing their daily lives, encounters and friendships take place between the members of a same community .


The professional dimension

This requires people skills and technical competence, which always have to be kept up-to-date. When accompanying people with an intellectual disability knowledge, knowing what to do and how to do it are needed.


The spiritual

This relates to the human desire to find meaning in your existence and to deepen your capacity to love, to experience true relationships, and, if you are a believer, to live according to your own religious tradition. .



To reveal the gifts of people who have an intellectual disability who, through their talents in building relationships, help build a more fraternal society.



Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche

Destined for a brilliant military career, this son of the General Governor of Canada chose to dedicate his life to serving the weakest ones. After spending more than 50 years sharing his life with people with an intellectual disability, his message today is a universal one: welcoming the fragilities of each of us is an essential path to building a more human society.


A cry

"I discovered that people with an intellectual disability were the most oppressed people in the world." Jean Vanier

Erol Franko, a psychiatrist, describes the 1960s context as follows:

"Before the reorganisation of the sectors the psychiatric hospitals were structured like concentration camps. People were sent there without any consideration of their backgrounds, life stories or their personalities. They could stay shut away for fifteen or thirty years!"


An encounter

L'Arche was born in 1964 from an encounter between Jean Vanier and two men with an intellectual disability, Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux, who were living in a psychiatric institution at the time. Profoundly touched by their distress, Jean Vanier decided to live with them in a little house in the village of Trosly Breuil in the Oise region. That was the beginning of the adventure….


International outreach

Thanks to all those who joined it, the L'Arche project spread rapidly to other regions, countries and continents with very different contexts, cultures and religions. The founding inspiration continues to this day in the 150 L'Arche communities in 38 countries and the 5 continents.

Scenes of life in L'Arche

The candid scenes of life testify to the "little moments of happiness" which punctuate the routine in L'Arche homes, ESAT and SAJ workshops.

Funny, tender and touching, these little stories and scenes of life paint a more vivid picture of the fruit of your generosity.

« Sharing moments with the most vulnerable members of our society can profoundly transform us and make us very happy. »