L’Arche Ipswich revels in 50 years of nurturing community

LArche Cornerstone-PeopleL’Arche communities across the world have been celebrating 50 years since L’Arche was established by Jean Vanier in 1964. It now has 145 communities in nearly 40 countries.

Last week, Pope Francis met with the founder, Jean Vanier and several representatives form communities across the globe. He applauded the work the movement has been doing to defend the dignity of the disabled and promoting their integration in society. Pope Francis described the mission of L’Arche as fighting the 'throwaway culture' which rejects people with disabilities. To see a video of the meeting, click here.
L’Arche (French for the Ark) is an international movement which builds faith based communities, with and without learning disabilities, all over the world. Members with learning disabilities are supported in their choice of lifestyle and can grow in confidence, skills and independence according to individual need.  It is an environment in which all are given the opportunity to grow as human beings, nurtured by meaningful relationships and treated as valued members of society.

At the heart of L’Arche communities are relationships between people with and without intellectual disabilities. A respectful relationship between people who treat each other as of equal value provides security – allowing for growth, personal development and freedom...
Tony Gibbings, Community Leader of L’Arche Ipswich talks about being together as a community in his latest blog:

“We have been focusing on our community life and finding that when we can relax together we gain the confidence to assert ourselves effectively. Sometimes this is fun, sometimes it is challenging, sometimes it means saying “No”; sometimes it means saying “Yes”. Whatever it means at the time, we find ourselves stretched in new ways. Learning to be a responsible adult is not always easy.”

“One theme that constantly recurs in L’Arche is that of its identity – what exactly is L’Arche, what is it really trying to achieve and how does it work? How fascinating is it to have an international community that is celebrating 50 years of growth in 2014 (40 years in the UK) and is still questioning and being questioned? This could be problematic or it could be a result of the openness which is key to keeping our communities healthy and available to all. If I consider the ‘BIG’ questions about L’Arche I can get intellectually stimulated and possibly exhausted. But if I look at each person at ‘The Cornerstone’, for instance during mealtimes, I see people starting to laugh at things they could not laugh about before, I see tensions easing between people because others came to their aid, I see moments of peace where there have been furrowed brows and I see personal freedom emerging where previously there had been great anxiety. Whatever L’Arche may or may not be, it has to be about these small but significant personal transformations.”
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