Discover L'Arche


  • People with an intellectual disability

    Kasia has been living in the Wroc?aw community in Poland since the summer of 2005. She shares her life with Wiola, Artur, Aneta, Kasia, Jacek,...

  • Assistants

    Acrobatics at the Cirque du Soleil of L’Arche Today I went to see a Cirque du Soleil show. It was as if I had entered another world. The...

  • Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche

    Jean Vanier was born on September 10, 1928, in Geneva, Switzerland, where his father, General Georges Vanier, was on a diplomatic mission. Most of...

  • Father Thomas Philippe, Mentor of Jean Vanier

    Father Thomas Philippe was born on 18 March 1905 near Lille in France. He grew up in a family of 12 children of whom seven became members of a...

  • Philippe Seux, Co-founder of L’Arche

    Philippe was born in Casablanca, in Morocco, in 1941.  At the age of two, he caught encephalitis followed by whooping cough, which both had serious...

Raphaël Simi, Co-founder of L’Arche

Raphaël, son of a grocer, was born in 1928, in Marseille. Three years later, his family moved to the south of Paris where he grew up with his brother and his sister. As a young boy, he suffered from polio as well as from a neurological disease which left him hemiplegics. He was well-treated by his family, but when his mother died in 1962, his brother and sister placed him in an institution. He was unhappy and remembered that he missed his family and the outside world and had nothing to do where he was.

Fortunately, he only stayed for two years in this institution, up until 1964, when Jean Vanier welcomed him, and another man, Philippe Seux, into a house he named L’Arche in Trosly-Breuil. Soon, Raphaël started to work in a sheltered workshop. He remained in touch with his brother and sister until their deaths.

In 1975, when Raphaël was 47 years old, he expressed his need for more peace and quiet and asked to go and live in the new community of La Rose des Vents. Some 13 years later, at the age of 60, Raphaël retired from work, but still found lots of things to do to occupy his time: he gave a helping hand in the community and attended the occupational therapy workshop on a regular basis to do collage and painting.

His health deteriorated badly in the winter of 2003. He was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia and passed away during the night of 23 March 2003.

Raphaël was an extremely sensitive person, showing great tenderness, especially towards children. As remembers George Durner, former Community leader of L’Arche La Rose des Vents:
“For Raphael and the other people we took care of at Rose des Vents, whether I was competent or not in carrying out my duties did not matter. (…) I was simply invited to be there. That was the only expectation that Raphael and the others had. (…) They helped me realise that I was still somebody, that I was a precious and loveable person even when I did not succeed in anything. (…) If, of the two of us, I was the most autonomous, Raphael was the strongest, and in many situations, the more mature one. And he knew it.”

A citizen in ones own right

The situation of people with an intellectual disability varies from one context to another. Only if we are able to name the gift, value and place of people with an intellectual disability in various religious and cultural traditions will the international community be able to encourage them to fully assume their role in community and society.


L'Arche Internationale
25 rue Rosenwald
75015 Paris France
Tel. : +33 (0)1 53 68 08 00
Fax. : +33 (0)1 53 68 08 00