Our history


Fifty years ago a young Canadian, Jean Vanier, was searching for his life’s purpose. When he was in France, Jean met Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, two men with intellectual disabilities. Jean was overwhelmed by the atmosphere of sadness within the walls of their institution where the men spent most of their days walking in circles. Jean felt he needed to do “something.”

That something was to purchase a rundown house in Trosly-Breuil and to invite Raphael and Philippe to live with him.

Jean, Raphael and Philippe moved into their home. They named their house L’Arche, and they did everything together: shopping, cooking, gardening and most of all, having fun.

In their first months living together Jean made a discovery. Not only was he helping Raphael and Philippe, but they were helping him. Through their friendship, and courage, Jean discovered that Raphael and Philippe had as much to offer as every other human.  This surprised Jean and changed him.

The small community grew fast, welcoming more persons with intellectual disabilities and Assistants who wanted to share their lives and learn from L’Arche. It was not long before people decided to create L’Arche in their own countries. Daybreak in Canada was the second community followed by a third in India. Today, there are  149 communities in 38 countries around the world.