Equity & Inclusion
The belief that everyone has unique gifts to offer, and that true community is built on the recognition and celebration of these gifts, is central to L’Arche – a vibrant community nestled in the Castlereagh Hills. Initially founded in France in 1964, L’Arche will celebrate three decades of equality and solidarity in Belfast next year.
The mission is as simple as it is profound – to create communities where people with learning disabilities can live, work and share their lives with others in an atmosphere of inclusion and compassion.
L’Arche Belfast provides domiciliary care and housing support in South Belfast. Residents are accepted for who they are, provided with the care and support that they need and encouraged to make choices for themselves about their own lives. Care is provided by professional support workers as well as full-time ‘live-in’ volunteers who commit to living alongside residents and help foster mutually supportive relationships within the community.
L’Arche creates opportunities for people who have learning disabilities to take up their place in their local communities, to realise their potential, and to be enabled to make an active contribution to society. In addition to the fourteen residents, over eighty people are benefitting from placements every week at L’Arche Village.
Food for Thought
The garden and horticultural areas of L’Arche Village are dedicated to growing a variety of organic fruits and vegetables throughout the year, including potatoes, courgettes, aubergines, currents, onions and pumpkin. A flock of chickens also provide fresh eggs.
The produce is used by Root Soup, a catering social enterprise also run by L’Arche Belfast, that in turn provides healthy lunches for the L’Arche workers. Surplus fruit and vegetables make up weekly organic fruit & vegetable hampers while flowers and plants are turned into wonderful hanging baskets and sold to generate an income that can be re-invested in the Village.
Samuel is just one member of L’Arche that has recently been supported to develop new talents and create a small enterprise which gives back to the L’Arche community. Samuel’s journey with L’Arche began in 2017 but it was in the initial development of L’Arche Village that his commitment and unique contribution was recognised.
Samuel expressed an interest in concrete pot casting and during 2023, applied himself to learn the tools of this new trade and develop strong enterprise skills so that he could market and sell his crafts successfully. Such was Samuel’s early sales success, a new dedicated space was created in the village for his workshop and he has built up quite a following of loyal customers.
The Village Kitchen enables adults with learning disabilities to expand their skill set and take part in and excel in activities that they may have been previously excluded from. While everyone works hard in the Village, the emphasis is firmly on community: collective coffee breaks, shared lunches and passionate cooks.
The art studio at L’Arche Village provides a safe and welcoming space for people, regardless of communication limitations, differences in language or social constraints to explore their own creative power. L’Arche artists use a variety of media – paint, clay, mosaic, wood, household materials – to connect and express themselves through art. International volunteers have influenced and inspired local artists with introductions to Japanese flower pounding, origami, silk printing, ice sculpture and lantern building.
Musicians in the community are equally well served with a dedicated music room and outside auditorium for impromptu performances among the polytunnels and chicken runs.
Impact & Enrichment
The impact of L’Arche Belfast extends far beyond its immediate community. It is a source of inspiration and hope for individuals and organisations working in the field of disability rights and inclusion. Through its innovative approach, L’Arche demonstrates that a society that values diversity and embraces the contributions of all its members is not only possible but also enriching for everyone involved.