Kilkenny L'Arche community challenges our perception on intellectual disabilities

Sean Keane


Sean Keane


Through L’Arche Eyes

Michael Fennelly, Maggie Quinlan, Core Member at L'Arche, and Chris Hayes, L'Arche Kilkenny Community Leader

L’Arche Kilkenny has launched their Christmas appeal, which this year aims to challenge perceptions around people with intellectual disabilities. L'Arche is an international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.

The objective of ‘Through L’Arche Eyes’ is to re-focus the discussions about intellectual disabilities to target the right problems. “Sometimes when looking at intellectual disabilities, people tend to be short-sighted," Chris Hayes, L’Arche Kilkenny Community Leader said.

“We have seen it in the past when asking for support. We have been told that intellectual disabilities are a problem in which we cannot have any real impact. Not much can be done for people with intellectual disabilities, since they can’t be helped, or cured, or saved. But this is not the problem. People with intellectual disabilities don’t need to be cured because they are not sick; they don’t need to be saved because they are not lost. We don’t want less people with intellectual disabilities around us; they are a gift to our societies," he added.

“The issue is not the disability; it’s the way we look at it. The real questions should be about inclusion; about personal encounters without prejudices; about the kind of societies we want in the future. Of course there is real impact when supporting causes like ours, which aim to create a more human society for all of us," Chris explained.
So to transform views on intellectual disabilities, L’Arche is inviting people to look at them through a new set of eyes: theirs. The non-profit has designed two pairs of glasses people can download from their website and are calling out for everyone to ‘wear, share and donate’.
“People can print the glasses, cut them out and wear them. To share the pictures with us, all they have to do is upload them to their social networks and use one of our hashtags: #ThroughLArcheEyes and #WearShareDonate. People can also donate online through our website and our Facebook page," Chris said.

L’Arche Kilkenny was the first L'Arche community in Ireland. Jean Vanier and his sister Thérèse were personally involved in its foundation, together with the people of Kilmaganny. During the past 39 years the community has grown so that today L’Arche Kilkenny includes four residential houses, a Café, four Independent Living Core Member houses, a garden workshop and a craft workshop. L’Arche houses are home to 14 people with intellectual disabilities and many international volunteer assistants.

“Across the world L’Arche fosters residential communities, work projects and friendships that create places of belonging for some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens. These spaces enable each person to live as a full citizen and to contribute their unique gifts to society. We want more people to know about this wonderful work we do in Ireland and around the globe. Join us this Christmas to transform views on intellectual disabilities," Chris Hayes said.