L’Arche was founded by Jean Vanier in 1964. The son of a former Governor General of Canada, Vanier served during World War II with the Royal Navy and then with the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1950, he left the navy to study philosophy and theology, and began to teach.

In 1964, Jean became aware of the plight of thousands of people with learning disabilities who were institutionalised in France. In that same year he took the radical step of inviting two men, Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux, to leave the institution where they lived and share their lives with him. Together they began L’Arche in a small house in Trosly-Breuil, France.

In 1968 the first L’Arche community in Canada opened. Gradually, more communities were founded around the world by people inspired by Jean's work. Jean remained the leader of the Trosly-Breuil Community until 1981 and lived there until just a few weeks before his death.

He has been an inspiring teacher. His life was testament to a radically different way of living and being in the world.

Jean’s awards include the French Legion of Honour, Companion of the Order of Canada, the Rabbi Gunther Plaut Humanitarian Award 2001, the International Paul VI Award, and the Templeton Prize. He was furthermore been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jean Vanier, and those who came to share his vision, learnt two important truths in the early years, which remain at the heart of L’Arche today. People with learning disabilities have a great deal to contribute to society and, by living in intentional community with people with and without learning disabilities - living with diversity and difference - we open ourselves up to be challenged and to grow.

Jean Vanier’s books include Life’s Great Questions, Becoming Human, Community and Growth, Befriending the Stranger and From Brokenness to Community.

Jean died on the 7 May 2019.