People with mental disabilities can touch hearts and call on others
to unity because of its simplicity and vulnerability. In this way they are alive
a reminder to the wider world of the most important values of the heart, without which
knowledge, power and activity lose their meaning and purpose.
(From the Larchе Charter)
The first L’Arche community (from the French “L’Arche” - Ark) was founded in 1964 in the village of Trolls in France by the famous philosopher and theologian Jean Vanier and Father Thomas Philippe.
Jean Vanier is the son of the Governor General of Canada, a university professor and former naval officer. At the invitation of his spiritual mentor, Fr. Thomas Philip, he came to France in the small village of Trolls, north of Paris. There he visited a boarding school where people with intellectual disabilities and was very impressed with the institutionalization of their lives. He invited two of them - Raphael Simi and Philip Soo - to leave the institution and start living in his house. Inspired by Noah’s Ark, Jean named their house the Ark (French for L’Arche).
This small community grew rapidly, accepting new people with intellectual disabilities and young people who wanted to share their lives with them. Very quickly, such communities were established in other countries.
Jean, who was the leader of the community in Troll until 1981. He lived there for the rest of his life. Many friends and students visited him to experience this new way of life.
Jean traveled extensively, visiting L`Arсhе communities, inspiring people to new projects, lecturing, and conducting retreats. He visited Ukraine several times.
Jean Vanier has received many awards for his work. His books have been translated into 29 languages. He is also a co-founder of the Faith and Light movement for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.