L’Arche is an
international organization of faith-based communities creating homes, day
programs, and support systems with people who have intellectual disabilities.
As a faith-based organization
that all people, whatever their gifts or their limitations, are bound together in a common humanity;
that a truly just and compassionate society can only be built upon a real commitment to welcome and to respect the most vulnerable in our midst;
that faith and spirituality are meaningless if they don’t inspire us to be open to people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture.
L’Arche began in
1964 when Jean Vanier, the son of Canadian Governor General Georges P. Vanier,
welcomed two men with disabilities into his home in the town of Trosly, France, northeast of Paris. Together
they called their home “L’Arche” in reference to “Noah’s Ark”, the
biblical symbol of deliverance and of God's covenant with humanity.
Inspired by the
Beatitudes of Jesus, which begin by proclaiming “Blessed are the poor...”
(Matt. 5:1-12), Vanier was among the first in our age to see that there is
something fundamentally unjust about locking people up in institutions. He
believed, instead, that those the world would rather lock away have much to
teach us and can even heal us if we give them the chance.
[For more about Jean Vanier, click here.]
Identity of L'Arche
- We are people, with and without intellectual disabilities, sharing life in communities of faith.
- Mutual relationships and trust in God are at the heart of our life together.
- We seek to build a world that recognizes the unique value of every person and our need of one another.
Mission of L'Arche
- To make known the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities revealed through mutually transforming relationships.
- To engage in our diverse cultures, working together toward a more human society.
- To foster community that is inspired by the core values in our founding story and responds to the changing needs of our members.
- Unlike many agencies, which operate according to certain medical or social service models of care for persons with disabilities, L’Arche has pioneered a “community model”
based on the belief that human beings
develop their abilities and talents most fully when given the
opportunity to form mutual relationships of friendship with others.
Within this community model,
persons with disabilities are called
“core members”, rather than “clients”.
"patients", or “consumers”;
those who provide
assistance to core members in our homes are called
“assistants”, rather than “staff”, "employees", or
assistants and core members
live together in homes or apartments in the same way that a family
would live together;
relationships based on friendship are considered to be as important as professional relationships in promoting the personal growth of persons with disabilities;
everyone in the home—core members and assistants alike—is considered to be equally responsible for the life of the community.
Since its founding
in 1964, L’Arche has grown
to become a world-wide organization welcoming people from many
different faith traditions, as well as people who have no formal affiliation
with any particular faith tradition. Today,
there are over 140 communities in 38 countries on six continents, providing homes, programs, and support networks for thousands of persons with disabilities and their assistants.
There are now 26
communities in Canada, including three in Atlantic Canada, seven in Quebec, nine
in Ontario, one in Manitoba, three in Alberta and three in British Columbia. Each L’Arche community is comprised of 2 to 8 houses, and most
communities run their own day programs, workshops and, in some cases, a
spirituality or retreat centre. Throughout
Canada’s newest community is located in Saint John, New Brunswick. We
also have two "projects" underway--one in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
and the other in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- operates 107 homes, 36 supervised
apartments and 29 day programs;
a home for 478 people with disabilities;
meaningful daytime work for 287 people with disabilities, 124 of whom live
somewhere other than in a L’Arche home;
380 live-in assistants and over 100 day program and office staff.
As a non-denominational,
non-sectarian organization, L'Arche is not officially affiliated with any
particular religious tradition. There are people in L’Arche from many Christian traditions and a significant number from non-Christian traditions. There are also people in L’Arche who would say that they have no religious affiliation. Having said that, L’Arche communities are faith communities that generally reflect the religious traditions in the locale where communities are located. In Quebec, for example, most communities would be primarily Roman Catholic, as that
reflects the population locally. In Toronto, there are people who belong
to the Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church, Muslim and Jewish
traditions, reflecting the mosaic of the city. In India, some communities are primarily Hindu and Muslim. Assistants in many communities come from around the world with a whole spectrum of religious experience, and none.
L’Arche was founded in France in the Roman Catholic tradition, in the spirit of the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven…”). However, from the time of its second and third communities, in Canada and then India, L’Arche has embraced an interfaith dynamic. Assistants are welcomed regardless of whether they belong to a spiritual tradition or nnot, with the understanding that part of their role is to support core members in their spiritual life. This may mean saying grace at the table or accompanying people to church.
The ecumenical and interfaith identity of L’Arche is both rich and challenging. There are joys and struggles. Our choice is for welcome and diversity. As Jean Vanier has said, “I would rather have an assistant who doesn’t believe in God but does believe in people with disabilities than the other way
- All L’Arche communities in Canada are registered as non-profit, charitable organizations and, as such, receive between 75 and 90% of their funding from provincial government sources.
L’Arche relies upon government assistance to cover the daily cost of running its homes and programs. This support enables L’Arche to ensure the minimum standard of care to which our most vulnerable citizens are entitled. Over and above that, L’Arche communities themselves engage in various kinds of fundraising activities to cover the costs of participating in regional, national and international L’Arche events and structures.
Thus, while government assistance enables L’Arche to ensure the minimum standard of care to which our most vulnerable citizens are entitled, L’Arche itself provides the financial and other resources that enable it to do so much more than simply meet the physical needs of those who live in its homes.
Because those who
work for L’Arche as assistants usually begin with no formal training in the
area of human care--though many have completed their undergraduate
studies--L’Arche works hard to ensure that its Assistants are well trained to
meet the "core competencies" that are required of those who work with
people with disabilities. In Nova
Scotia, all new L’Arche assistants must complete a series of modules designed
to ensure that they receive basic training in all the key areas of human care
within six months of being hired. These areas include:
- First Aid/C.P.R.
- Non-Violent Crisis Intervention
- The Rules of Cooperation
- Fire & Life Safety
- Positive Principles & Practices of Non-Aversive Behaviour Change
- Effective & Respectful Communication
- Medication Awareness
- Introduction to Mental Illness
- Understanding Human Sexuality
- Individual Learning Plans
On top of this
training, L'Arche also provides its assistants with training and formation in
the following areas:
Mission & Identity of L’Arche;
the Charter of L’Arche;
the Key Elements of L'Arche;
History of L’Arche; Creating Home;
the Therapy of L’Arche;
Working with Families & Professionals;
Self-Care, My Gifts & Personal Growth;
Accompaniment in L'Arche;
Respectful Living & Language;
Relationships, Affectivity & Sexuality
Word About the Screening
All prospective assistants in our communities must undergo a
rigorous application process that includes a personal interview with the
community leader, detailed reference checks, as well as a criminal background check.
For the most part, L'Arche tends to attract university-educated individuals who have
heard about us through family, friends or the media. Many individuals
also come to us having been
inspired by the writings of Jean Vanier or Henri
Nouwen. Once they arrive,
assistants are considered to be on probation for six months, during which time
their performance is evaluated at regular intervals.
To apply to be an
assistant in L'Arche, click here.