Photo Essay

L'Arche, A Day at the Gym

L'Arche, A Day at the Gym (1st of photo essay)

In the 1970's, I was assigned my first photo essay for The Winnipeg Tribune, the first newspaper I worked for. It turned into a great fun day as children with developmental disabilities from L'Arche visited a gymnasium for the first time. Outside of a couple of minor gliches, everyone had a marvellous time as did I in capturing some very special moments.

In L'Arche, people who have developmental disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L'Arche in Canada has nearly 200 homes and workshops or day programs. These are grouped into what L'Arche calls ''communities.'' There are 27 communities of L'Arche located across Canada from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island and 2 projects that hope soon to become communities. L'Arche communities are open and welcoming of neighbours and friends and often engage in various collaborations at the local level.

L'Arche Canada is the ''umbrella''organization for L'Arche in Canada. It is committed to helping create an open, inclusive and compassionate Canadian society where every person is valued and can make a contribution. It undertakes Canada-wide educational and community-building initiatives that extend the values and vision of L'Arche into the wider society. It publishes educational and popular materials that highlight the contributions of people who have developmental disabilities to the wider society and that contribute to the public conversation about values and the social ethos in which we live. It also ensures the standards of Canadian L'Arche communities, supports the establishment of new communities, supports national L'Arche initiatives such as leadership training and program development in areas of common concern (today, Aging is one such area) and it oversees the Solidarity program with L'Arche communities in the South. The L'Arche Canada Foundation is the fund-raising body for L'Arche Canada.

Each L'Arche community consists of a small number of households where people share in decision-making and each person contributes as they are able. L'Arche believes that meaningful work or day-time activities are very important to a person's dignity. Many communities of L'Arche have day projects of various types. Some people in L'Arche may have regular jobs in the wider community, but most of the people with developmental disabilities who come to live in L'Arche need considerable support and find competitive employment is not an option. L'Arche seeks to provide environments where people can reach their full potential, lead lives rich in relationships of mutuality, and have a valid place in society where they can contribute.

L'Arche was founded in 1964 by Canadian humanitarian and social visionary, Jean Vanier. Distressed by the institutionalization and the isolation and loneliness of people with developmental disabilities, Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house. He called the house ''L'Arche,'' a French word for ''the ark'' in the biblical story of Noah and the flood. L'Arche grew quickly and spread around the world, attracting many young people who wanted to help and opening new homes and workshops. L'Arche began in Canada in 1969. Today, there are 146 L'Arche communities in 35 countries on six continents. All of these communities are part of the International Federation of L'Arche Communities.

23 responses


    ROCIO GUILLEN gave props (7 Nov 2012):

    Beautiful essay, deserves to be the Story of the Week.

  • rekha nag

    rekha nag gave props (8 Nov 2012):


  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (8 Nov 2012):

    I loved each and every photo in this incredible essay. Definitely gets my vote!!

  • Heather Mellon

    Heather Mellon gave props (8 Nov 2012):

    A remarkable series and tribute to the wonderful people pictured here.. and acknowledgement of a truly great humanitarian. Voted!

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (8 Nov 2012):

    Even though my photo essay has also been nominated, your story far surpasses mine for this worthy cause and I vote for you...

  • James Wiley

    James Wiley said (8 Nov 2012):

    Wow Andrea, how incredibly humble of you. I am honoured my friend!

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (9 Nov 2012):

    So powerful & wonderful! voted!

  • Andrew Dutton

    Andrew Dutton (Deleted) gave props (10 Nov 2012):

    Great story James! Gets my vote.

  • Pedro Teixeira

    Pedro Teixeira gave props (11 Nov 2012):

    Great story...Amazing photos full of feelings!Congrats for this brilliant photo essay!...And thanks for sharing!

  • JPG

    JPG gave props (11 Nov 2012):

    Congrats on getting the story of the week!

  • Pedro Teixeira

    Pedro Teixeira gave props (12 Nov 2012):

    Hello James,congratulations on the story of the week.It was very well deserved!

  • Ma. Dolores Guillén Solí­s

    Ma. Dolores Guillén Solí­s gave props (12 Nov 2012):

    Congrats for the story of the week, James... Very well deserved!


    ROCIO GUILLEN gave props (12 Nov 2012):

    Congrats James! Like I said, deserves to be the Story of the Week.

  • Eric Sayah

    Eric Sayah gave props (13 Nov 2012):

    Congrats on story of the week. Well deserved!

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak gave props (13 Nov 2012):

    thrilled for so many reasons that this fanastic body of work got the deserved attention and story of the week - CONGRATS!

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (13 Nov 2012):

    Brilliant essay. Congrats, James.

  • James Wiley

    James Wiley said (13 Nov 2012):

    Thank you all for the comments and votes! As I recall, I had as much fun with this as the very special kids and the special people who care for them.

  • Evelyne Schulte

    Evelyne Schulte gave props (13 Nov 2012):

    Congratulations !

  • Sarah Springer

    Sarah Springer (Deleted) gave props (14 Nov 2012):

    Congratulations, James ......superb work

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (18 Nov 2012):

    Dear James, I am sorry that I did not see this story and therefore did not vote, please know that I would have done so!! Congratulations on a compelling joyful story well worth being the Story of the week!!!

  • Marco Martinez

    Marco Martinez gave props (18 Nov 2012):

    Excellent photo essay. There are compassion and admiration in the way the group of photographs were presented. Very well-documented.

  • Carlo Pagan

    Carlo Pagan gave props (3 Dec 2012):

    Stupenda serie di foto dedicate a chi sa veramente sorridere alla vita! Complimenti, sei stato molto bravo a scegliere un tema così difficile da interpretare.

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (31 Dec 2012):

    Wonderful story, photos and program.

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