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Jan 8, 2016

Providing support at school

Individual accompaniment
Individual accompaniment

Access to basic knowledge and culture are essential to the well being of society. This is one of the major priority for Secours Catholique-Caritas, France. Our nonprofit organization offers to children with difficulties a personal accompaniment that goes well beyond simple academic support.

Each year, anywhere in France, thousands of children and adolescents who are experiencing academic, social or family difficulties are supported in their educational experience by over 5000 volunteers of Secours Catholique.

This support takes many forms: individual and at home, or in groups. It goes far beyond the school assistance and allows the child to regain confidence in him, through play, cultural outings and encounter.

This personal accompaniment is done in connection with parents who, often, had themselves difficulties with school and therefore now tend to step back. The volunteer helps them to support their child at school and contributes to restore relationship with the institution and the teachers.

We develop an educational follow up of the child based on its psychological, physical, emotional, social, cultural, spiritual whole capacities ... The pedagogy that we use relies on the know-how of the child and respects its acquisition and learning rhythms. By allowing the child to remember his past successes, it is given means to regain confidence in himself and to face additional difficulties.

This approach is in line with our perspective of fighting against illiteracy and social exclusion. It contributes, to a certain extent, to the prevention and reduction of academic failure. While a school support is essential for a child, offering extra-curricular play and learning entertainments allows him to open up to the world surrounding him.

The personal accompaniment of a child is carried out in association with his family. The child and the volunteer should get to know each other before working together. The development of a relationship between an adult and a child outside of the classical scholar, social or paramedical environments also allows, for the child, the development of a solid and constructive relationship within his own neighborhood and surrounding area.

The role of the volunteer is essential. Indeed, it must be a “developer of talents” of children. He implements a pedagogy that chooses to rely on the skills of the child and adheres at the same time to his rates of acquisition and learning.

Here is the testimony of a young volunteer involved in the school accompaniment program in the Yvelines.

"As a third year student at the medical school of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, I am also a volunteer at Secours Catholic for the school support activities. When I started, all the children that needed support were carefully introduced to me: we were given their school level, the evolution and orientation to pursue, but also their personal family situation. Some of these children and their families had been followed for several years by Secours Catholique, thus making contacts easiest and solid.

The presence of several volunteers allows every child to benefit from varied skills such as science, or literature or languages - but also to get access to a large panel of teaching materials, developed and maintained by volunteers (educational games for younger, varied learning methods ...).

The dedicated space (kitchen, living room, office) remains open all afternoon and thus allows the child to come to work according to its availability in a family atmosphere.

To my view, what makes the strength of this team, is a constant concern to establish a deep dialogue, a follow up of the child in direct connection with the parents."
Throughout the school year, 5000 volunteers in more than 216 local teams of the country, participate to the accompaniment of the children.

In 2014, the expenses to support this program amounts to 78 000 euros.

Oct 9, 2015

Organization of humanitarian aid in Calais-France

Bicycle workshop
Bicycle workshop

1. Context

Exiles in Calais

Since the mid-1990s, the city of Calais and its suburbs (France) attract a significant number of exiles who try to cross the Channel to reach Britain. While the country stays out agreements on the free circulation of people within the European Union, the exiles cannot cross the border and are stranded in Calais. Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Sudanese, Syrians, Kurds, Eritreans: men, women - and children - have been passing through Calais for twenty years now. The vast majority of them, fleeing war or repression, report to a need for international protection : they are refugees that France, the UK and all EU states committed to protect when they signed in 1951, the Geneva Convention on refugees.
The places in which people organized themselves were successively dismantled by the authorities without proposing any solution and aggravate their health and financial situation.


A daily support

Committed for over 10 years with exiles from Calais, Secours Catholique proposes actions to help people who pass the door of their day care :
- A shower is offered so that the exiles can groom
- A cloakroom is available
- Foreign language courses French are offered
- Support in particular with the administrative procedures for immigration


A dramatic and unprecedented situation

3 000 exiles now live in an old wild landfill on a municipal land in Calais. In late March, under the governement's pressure, these migrants were forced to settle on a "moor" devoid of any furnishings, near Jules Ferry's center. This day care, opened in March 2015 for 1 000-1 500 people, is already saturated.

The living conditions of these people on the new "authorized jungle" are absolutely unprecedented in Europe, not even complying with UN standards (UNHCR and WHO) : insufficient access to drinking water (30 taps), almost no accessible toilets (20 per 3 000 persons), insufficient food, inadequate access to care.

The worsening situation has increased tensions and vulnerability of people. Faced with this exceptional situation, four emergency humanitarian NGOs have had no choice but to implement their skills and logistical resources usually reserved for war or disaster situations, to rescue these men, these women and children and bring governments to their responsibilities :

  • Doctors of the World France is rolling out mobile clinics to provide medical consultations. Listening and counseling activities are also implemented.
  • Solidarités International is distributing hygiene kits to all the people of the camp, as well as containers for drinking water. Their teams build sanitary facilities, shower areas and toilets compounds.
  • Secours Catholique-Caritas France has dispatched a team of volunteers from its Emergency branch, in addition of local volunteers to provide resources and build shelters with the exiles, community kitchens and other amenities on the slum.
  • The French Islamic Relief is distributing food parcels.

Since the beginning of the year € 95,000 were spent to help migrants of Calais.

In this context, the bicyle workshop is at the same time, a way to provide a complementary solution to the major material difficulties faced by exiles and a way to give them more autonomy.


2. The bicycle workshop project

The population of the exiles was "installed" on a tolerated area on the outskirts of the city. People are 1h30 walk from all the services they need to access (day care, debit domiciliation, branch of the French Office for Immigration and Integration, internet access for contact with relatives...). The bicycle can overcome these challenges in a way that contributes to the improvement of extremely precarious living conditions.
The project is also intended that the exiles themselves are organizers and repairers within the workshop. In the spirit of Catholic Relief accompanied persons are acting project thus helps to restore their autonomy.

The workshop started in May under the impulse of a group of volunteers. It is settled in the yard of a building used by Secours Catholique as a day care and is open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays, a day or two more being spent on retyping old bicycles to give to them to the exiles in need.
The mechanics are trained exiles (7 have already been trained so far) in exchange for a presence commitment for two months.
30-40 exiled cyclists benefit from the opening days of the workshop services and fifty bicycles have already been distributed (for about 300-400 bikes present in the camp).

The workshop is forced to move due to 2 to 3 months and must be improved to face growing demand and bicycle repairs. It is therefore to establish a courtyard where the workshop will take place and a place to store parts and tools.

Operating costs of the workshop : € 2,000 per year.

The installation of the playground and place of storage is estimated at € 15,000.

Bicycle workshop
Bicycle workshop
Bicycle workshop
Bicycle workshop


Jul 10, 2015

Earthquake in Nepal

Collapsed building-Kamandu (c) Caritas Internalis
Collapsed building-Kamandu (c) Caritas Internalis

Since the announcement of the earthquake that hit Nepal Saturday, April 25, the Caritas network, which includes  Secours Catholique-Caritas France, has mobilized to assist the victims.

A strong earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) hit Nepal in Saturday morning. Caritas Nepal has quickly confirmed media reports of thousands of victims of heavy material damage and countless destroyed buildings. The whole country and the neighboring countries, India and Bangladesh, were hit. Aftershocks hit areas that have already been hardly hit by the earthquake adding to the number of victims.

Since that earthquake, which affected 30 of the 75 districts in Nepal, hundreds of thousands of people sleep outside their houses being destroyed or threatened to collapse. Teams on site assist victims and collect evidence. Tents, water bottles, hygiene products and other first aid materials are distributed.

The earthquake also caused a blackout of communication networks.

Faced with this dramatic situation, Secours Catholique-Caritas France immediately released an initial aid of 50,000 € and is implementing with its partners in emergency programs to provide assistance to affected populations.

Following the second earthquake in Nepal Tuesday, May 12 in the north-east, Caritas network has redoubled its mobilization.

"Landslides caused by this new earthquake could seriously hamper the complicated rescue operations in most isolated villages", feared the Caritas teams, already mobilized on the ground for two weeks. "We prefer materials for shelter and clean water, but after the second shock needs will be even greater."

"It's raining and the temperature drops at night. Beyond food aid, what people need right now is something to build a shelter, "said father Pius Peruman, director of Caritas Nepal and operations coordinator. The victims (often single women in the villages, because their husbands work in town or abroad) received large plastic sheets, blankets and mattresses.

Other priority, according to feedbacks from the field : hygiene and sanitation of the water. Filters and water purification tablets have been distributed, as soap and buckets of 20 liters.

Finally, it is planned to provide those who need kitchen utensils, jerrycans, solar lamps or torches.

Secours Catholique-Caritas France has decided to pay 250,000 € to Caritas Nepal to assist 100,000 victims until late June.

Providing food&material (c)Caritas Internationalis
Providing food&material (c)Caritas Internationalis
Blankets distributed (c) Caritas Internationalis
Blankets distributed (c) Caritas Internationalis


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