The story of L’Arche

“Will be my friend?” This is the question that started L’Arche, now an international federation of more than 135 member communities in 36 countries. The communities encompass 5,000 people with and without a learning disability, who share their lives in homes, workshops and day programmes.

L’Arche is one of a number of ‘intentional communities’ that offer a place of belonging to people with learning disabilities. Our identity statement talks of ‘sharing lives’, emphasises ‘relationships’ and says that ‘we celebrate the unique value of every person and recognise our need of one another’. Sometimes this approach can seem at odds with the trend to professionalise ‘services’. While some aspects of professionalisation can be a good thing, there is a danger it can reduce human relationships to what people cn do and in doing so miss what is important – namely that both people with learning disabilities and the people choosing to support them are people.

As with anything based on people, L’Arche is always changing. New ways of sharing life are being tried, with people living in a range of settings depending on their needs and desires at different times in their lives.

Some people with disabilities live in flats, some live in houses, some live on their own, some share with people with and without learning disabilities. Whilst it is very important that people with learning disabilities can choose between a range of housing options, the model of housing itself is not ultimately that important. What is important in our model of community is that no flat or house exists in isolation, that each person belong to a strong network of relationships and that their commitment to these relationships, and others commitment to them enriches and gives meaning to their daily life.

How to become part of the L’Arche community

In the UK most people with disabilities come to L’Arche via a local authority referal but each community is always happy to hear direct from people who are interested in finding out more about L’Arche. Call 01535656186 or visit www.larche.org.uk

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