Giving back: Ways to volunteer in France
PUBLISHED: 12:53 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:34 10 October 2019
Whether you are looking for a way to keep active, get involved in your community in France and meet new people, or whether there is a cause that means a lot to you, here is how you can give back in France
Pitch in at animal shelters
If you are an animal lover, a great way to give back is to volunteer at an animal shelter. La SPA take on volunteers for tasks such as cleaning kennels, office support and playing with and grooming animals. There are also plenty of local independent shelters around France, some which may even be run by expats, and they would likely be happy for a extra pair of helping hands, so it is worth exploring what there is in you area.
Become a pompier
In France pompiers, are fire-fighters and also perform emergency response for traffic accidents and medical emergencies and use ambulances equipped with first aid equipment and defibrillators. Volunteers represent 79% of pompiers in France and there is always room for more. It can be a full on experience and you would have to confront some upsetting situations but you could say with certainty you are making a difference. If you want to volunteer as a pompier you must be between 16 and 60, reside legally in France, and will need to commit to five years volunteering, with the first year being a probationary period during which you would receive training.
The role of the mayor and mairie in France
Our eco-friendly home and gîte business in Tarn-et-Garonne
Help the less fortunate
While it is easy to take things like food and shelter for granted we know that not everyone is as fortunate. One way to spend you time volunteering is to helping those living in poverty in France and there are a couple of large organisations that could be a good place to offer your services. Secours Populaire, established in 1945 is one of the most active charities in France and relies heavily on its 80,000 volunteers to help provide food aid, clothing, access to housing and healthcare, and more to those in need. While, founded in 1985, les Restaurants du Cœur - les Relais du Cœur, has a primary aim to provide food to people who need it. Today the organisation also does work for housing and employment and has 72,000 volunteers and 2,027 centres. Both organisations are flexible for volunteers to decide how much time they want to commit and for how long.
Become a first-aider
As in the UK, the French Red Cross or Croix-Rouge offer first aid in emergency situations and run first aid training for the public. The organisation has 58,000 volunteers, alongside 18,000 employees. Whether you want to attend a short course in order to be prepared to help a neighbour in an emergency, or whether you sign up to regular volunteering, this would be a great way to meet people and learn some exceptionally useful new skills.
Preserve the beauty of France
Two of the great things about France are the stunning natural landscapes and the incredible heritage sites to explore. APARE runs heritage volunteer workcamps over the summer and J'agis Pour La Nature lists numerous nature and conservation projects and organisations across France as well as offering inspiration for ways you can help out on your own.
In 2016, millions of people were forcibly displaced around the world and there are currently around 700 refugees living in and around Calais, and more in Dunkerque, Caen, and Paris. A number of charitable organisations in France now offer help to these refugees including Care for Calais, Help Refugees and Refugee Info bus. There are numerous ways volunteers can help these charities but if you have particular skills including in language, teaching, sports, law, research or even just a car that can be use to transport much needed supplies, these will be particularly helpful. The time commitment may vary depending on what kind of tasks you are able to help with, but volunteers can decide travel to Calais to spend anywhere from a day to perhaps even a month pitching in on the everyday tasks.
Lend an empathetic ear
Sometime the biggest thing you can do to make a difference is lend an ear to someone in need. In France, S.O.S Amitié is the equivalent of the Samaritans, but for English speakers there is also SOS Help. To be a listener with the English speaking team you must live near Paris and be able to prove your capacity to be warm, empathic and non-judgmental to callers, but there are also ways you can help support the organisation, such as organising fundraisers, from elsewhere in France.
What do you do to help give back in your community in France? Write to us at email@example.com and we might publish the letter in the magazine. We reserve the right to edit your letters.