Emmanuelle Gautier (55) lives in a small village of 300 people in the Beaujolais region in France. The web journalist and author of podcasts is a volunteer at Forum réfugiés, a non-profit organization that – amongst others – supports the integration of refugees into French society.
‘Two years ago, the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan really moved and shocked me’, Emmanuelle says. ‘It was then that I decided to offer my help to refugees. In my opinion, it is essential to offer linguistic and cultural bridges to these people, so they can get a foothold in France.’
A small network of volunteers was formed to help refugees families better integrate, and for a year and a half, Emmanuelle visited an Afghan family. Once a week, she offered them French classes as a foreign language, many in the form of games or conversation tests.
Emmanuelle: ‘I quickly realized that this family of ten, including a child with physical and mental disabilities and serious health problems, needed more help with their daily tasks. So I started to help them with their administrative tasks, to convey them, take care of the children and so on.’
This amazing friendship had a very positive impact on me and I know that it will last.Emmanuelle
Gradually, a friendship was build between Emmanuelle and the Afghan family. ‘We share meals and talk and laugh a lot, especially with the kids, who are more comfortable with the French language. We became friends and have very rich and varied talks and discussions. This amazing friendship had a very positive impact on me and I know that it will last.’
‘My partner and I also participated in welcoming and hosting a Ukrainian family’, she continues, ‘along with a dozen other families in our village. At the initiative of the Afghan families, we organized a multicultural festival to welcome them. It turned out to be this amazing Franco-Afghan-Ukrainian festive where we shared culinary specialities, songs and organized lots of games for the children. These last years, the contact with refugees has shaken up my prejudices and opened my mind. And at the end of the day, we “receive much more than we give”.’
Join the solidarity movement!
Refugees in Europe face hostility. They are brutally refused at borders, experience severe violence, or live under inhumane conditions in shelters throughout Europe.
It’s time to change! Like Emmanuelle, there are many citizens who show solidarity with refugees in their daily lives. Now it’s up to our politicians to protect refugees and change the failing system.