Client Stories

A Place of Hope

L’Arche Tova Café

L’Arche Café provides meaningful employment for people with developmental disabilities, and enables the public to interact with and get to know them.

The L’Arche story began nearly 50 years ago in Trosly, France, where founder Jean Vanier chose to settle and live with people with an intellectual disability. He bought a small house and named it L’Arche, the French word for The Ark. Though Vanier’s original intent was to help people with disabilities, he quickly discovered their power to help him, and the power of those relationships to teach and even to heal us.

Canada is one of 36 countries carrying out the L’Arche mission. In April 2012, L’Arche Tova Café, a social enterprise of L’Arche Winnipeg, opened its doors to the community. The first of its kind in the L’Arche global community, the Café provides meaningful employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities who often face a number of societal challenges, including social isolation, abuse, and exploitation.

With fresh, made-to-order entreés, and homemade dessert creations, the Café also offers (with a nod to their French connection) a build-a-crepe menu, where customers can select from a number of fresh ingredients, both sweet and savoury.

Even after a few short months, Jim Lapp, Executive Director, sees the positive influence that the Café has had on the staff. “Our priority is to see each person succeed. There’s this pride that our staff have in coming to do their jobs. Their self-esteem has really been enhanced by working here.”

“The social side of the enterprise has exceeded my expectations,” explains Jim, recalling a meeting with a representative from L’Arche Canada the day after opening. The community impact of the Café was clear
as she observed the steady stream of families bringing in their children. “L’Arche Tova Café is becoming a place of hope for the community.”

L’Arche Winnipeg is thankful for SEED’s expertise around feasibility and business planning in the start-up phase, and is just a phone call away to answer questions that come up around Café operations.
Belinda Squance manages the café. Even with the challenges a new business brings, she describes the joy of working with people with disabilities. “To be valued and trusted by the staff – it’s a huge blessing to my heart. It’s hard not to smile when they’re around.”

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