Thursday, May 23, 2013

L'Arche, BLOOM and Jean Vanier

I 've written here a few times about L'Arche, the worldwide communities that bring together adults with intellectual disabilities and young adult volunteers who call themselves assistants. The model was conceived by humanist, theologian and philosopher Jean Vanier, and one of my favorite advocates and bloggers, Canadian Louise Kinross at BLOOM, interviewed him earlier this week.

Here's a snippet, but I urge you to click on over and read the whole thing.

BLOOM: Do you think our culture will ever change to the point that people with disabilities are accepted?

Jean Vanier: I think there will always be a tension. I think something has to be done in schools. I think if one can teach right at the beginning of school, not just the need for success and to go up the ladder, but the need for being together. I was at a school in Calcutta where they were in a circle and the ones who were better were helping the ones who were doing less well. It’s to help children to discover the power of love. That togetherness is something incredibly beautiful. 

The fear is that our schools are being run on the power system and children are not learning to be together in a place of happiness and love. This is the problem of deep individualism.

But of course parents are struggling with this. Parents of assistants at L’Arche are struggling with this. I was speaking at a school of one of our assistants and one of the parents said ‘What are your problems at L’Arche?’ 

I said one of the problems is that you’re very happy if your child comes to stay at L’Arche as an assistant for six months. But if your child wants to stay longer, you’re upset. Because you say ‘staying with people like that is degrading.’ 

There’s a whole change needed and let’s begin at the school level, to help children so that they no longer despise a child in the classroom who’s weaker, but they can see that it’s a benefit to everybody and it brings forth the beautiful qualities in children.


  1. Oh my god. If only this. His words give me chills.

  2. I love our L'Arche community in my city. I dream of having something similar that includes entire families in villages with assistants. Vanier is one of my heros.

  3. Thank God there are people like him in the world.

  4. I was nodding my head as if I'd been headbanging in a heavy metal concert throughout that excerpt. Education. It's always the key. Education. Many thanks. I really appreciated that interview.

    Greetings from London.

  5. I had to stop and think about what full acceptance would look like. What an enlightening interview.

  6. I love hearing about people who are doing work from their hearts, who are interested in compassion and unity. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  7. That's so interesting. I hadn't really thought about our educational system being built on power, as opposed to collaboration -- though I've long been frustrated by its emphasis on preparation for careers as opposed to knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Thanks for posting this.

  8. I've read your blog for a long time and I'm not usually one to comment, but I was so happy to read about L'Arche on your blog. My family exists because of L'Arche. My mother-in-law and father-in-law met when they were assistants in France and helped found the houses in a city in the US. My brother-in-law met his wife when they were assistants and they all know Jean Vanier personally and my MIL corresponded with his mother on a regular basis. (Jean Vanier's father was the Governor General in Canada.) I have to say that I am so blessed to have married into this family because they are the most gentle and caring souls I have ever met. All of them have moved on in their careers but remain connected to their local communities of L'Arche houses. It is through their stories that I've come to truly understand the merits of living in community. Thank you for sharing this interview.



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