Well, our work in food distribution center has been successfully completed. Thus another chapter in our path finishes and a new one opens. Tomorrow, we’re leaving for Spain. We could be leaving by plane or train, but we decided to take a more interesting and exciting option – hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking – interesting and exciting
To my experience, French (unlike the Italians) are much more open when it comes to hitchhiking. So I assume a 1000 km in two days is a realistic goal to achieve. Tomorrow to Clermont – Ferrand, about 500 km from Paris, on Sunday the remaining 500 to the border with Spain. And from there, by train to Barcelona.
Cheap room for two
We found a room in Clermont – Ferrand for mere 20€ per night (for both) by using Airbnb accommodation portal.
We have written about how we find a cheap place to stay here. If you love to travel on a low budget, Airbnb is certainly the right choice for you.
If you are not already registered to the portal, you can sign up here. By clicking on this link and register in the system, Airbnb donates you a €31, which could be enough for up to two nights for free. Surely a bargain!
In my last post I announced to publish a brief conversation with Phillip Brouant, the director of the organization Esat Regain Paris, a social enterprise in Paris which, among others, runs an August food distributing help project.
Phillip Brouant has kindly agreed to talk to us and delivered us interesting information about their work and social situation in France. After completing the conversation, we, with great pleasure, handed him over donations which you have generously given to this organization. Thanks again for your contribution!
You are the leader of the Esat-Regain Paris organization, can you briefly introduce your operation and current projects?
Esat Regain Paris is actually a social enterprise whose activities affect various spheres of social problems in France, particularly in Paris. We are a smaller kind of organization, but act independently, which is our great advantage. We employ 130 people, including many of those who would have had a difficulty finding jobs or do not have opportunities to do so. In fact, we operate in three main areas:
The first is our Esat project, whose main objective is the employment of socially disadvantaged and hard-to-employ individuals. We employ these people in our workshops that address various market needs. For the others, we actively help them to find a job and integrate them into their professional lives. We stay in contact with them even after they have already been employed. We provide them with the necessary support and knowledge to maintain a job and live a decent life.
Our second project is to accommodate people in apartments, whose owners we are. Here, we want to help, particularly the patients with severe chronic diseases, such as cancer, AIDS and others. We hope that these people would be able to have the best possible conditions for their treatment and for facing with all the challenges that these diseases bring into their lives.
And a third project, of course, help in distributing the food in August, which you both are well aware of. This is also our initial project, our child, from which we have developed the entire organization to a present formation. The project was founded in 1994 by deacon Perre Lanne, who has recognized “the August gap” when charitable organizations usually close their doors due to holidays and people who depend on them remain without meals. The campaign’s slogan is, therefore, very significant: Hunger knows no holidays.
What particularly persuaded us about this project is an excellent organization and how it is run. How many packets of food were distributed this month?
The results are excellent, similar as previous years. In the first nine distribution centers in Paris, there was 700,000 packages delivered, or otherwise, 14,000 people benefited from our assistance.
And how many volunteers were involved?
All together there were 350 – and two Slovenians (laughter). Of these, 20 of those who are otherwise employed in Esatu and four of those were offenders who have provided their services as a form of punishment.
What inspires you at your mission?
Perhaps the fact that we are leaving the concrete trail in the everyday life of those people in need. Not only in distributing the food but also for them to help find employment and integrate into society. Every day is different, people’s needs are different. Inspiring is the fact that the work involves many individuals who voluntarily, without pay, are willing to help.
In the many articles we were contemplating about the fact that poor also have a role to play. They are not only recipients, they are the ones who can give a lot. What in your opinion, these people can teach us? For example, what do they teach you?
I fully agree with a statement. These people can actually share with us all their current conditions. They teach us humility and dignity. Despite the material poverty and weakness, they retain their heads up and do not lose hope. They fight. At the same time, they are telling us not to judge. Just as these people find themselves in difficult circumstances, tomorrow each of us might be confronted with the same.
Like other European countries, France is also facing challenges in the social sphere. Can you highlight the most acute ones?
Right so. Like everywhere else, France has a lot of problems. And unfortunately, things are getting worse. Particular with the loneliness of elderly people. Humanitarian organizations in France are very fragmented and each one is narrowly focused on its area. It is true that people’s willingness to help is increasing, growing, which is good for a country. On the other hand, fewer and fewer resources are devoted to charitable projects, which certainly obstruct our development.
The problem of immigrants in France is also a pressing one. The majority of these are Muslims and it is more than clear that France faces a unique problem – identity crisis. Although these people need help to ensure their place in society and to live a decent life, we must not allow them to shape the identity of our society. As most French, in this regard, are inconclusive, their efforts are successful. Unfortunately.
Is the existing system of volunteers in France still viable given the fact that the social problems and needs in the country are rising?
As mentioned above, there are many volunteers and more and more organizations emerge that seek to change the social image of France. The problem is their bad conditions for projects. Because the state does not give enough financial incentives, they are forced to look for opportunities in the market, where they are of course faced with a completely different challenges.
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