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“Entraide”, a hand extended in rural areas around Dunkirk

Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie - Ghyvelde
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods

For more than 20 years, the “Entraide” association has assisted people struggling in rural areas around Dunkirk (Nord-Pas-de-Calais). Food packages, loans, social grocery store, etc.—the structure accompanies and supports more and more families every year.

05/19/2011

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Entraide’s story began in 1990, when a fire destroyed a house in Ghyvelde, a small town located near the North Sea and Belgian border. A couple and their three children were left with nothing, in the streets. “We immediately called for donations in the village (pop. 3,200). The wave of solidarity was so big we could have re-housed five families,” explains Serge Blondé, president of the association. “We had mattresses, dishes, furniture... more than we needed. So we thought: there are other families in difficulty nearby, why not help them?” And the Entraide association was born.

Help in all sectors

The idea spread rapidly in the region: a dozen of other villages joined Ghyvelde. “Many industries have left the Dunkirk basin, the unemployment rate is now high, and needs are therefore great,” insists Serge Blondé. The association has set up a “resource shop” activity: recycling old clothes, furniture and objects recovered during collection drives. It also offers interest-free loans, helps finance leisure activities for children, and helps families deal with their day-to-day problems. It now relies on roughly thirty volunteers and a staff of 13 employees, eight of which through professional integration contracts.

Last year, Entraide, always seeking to evolve its services, even opened a social grocery store. “We had long distributed food packages... Along side that, we have opened a grocery store where people pay 10% of the value of their purchases. It is important, as it prevents them from falling into the hand-out mentality.” In 2011, the association helped 163 families and distributed the equivalent of €42,000 of food and basic necessities.

Sandrine Salon, for example, is one of the recipients. Made redundant in 2010, she has been looking for work ever since. The social worker steered her towards Entraide. “First, I received food packages to feed my four children. Then, I joined the social grocery store. I don’t know what we would do without it. We wouldn’t be able to make it.”

The sponsor, a link between partners

To continue to meet its goals, the structure needed to find financial partners, and the search was successful thanks to Franck Dhersin. Director of institutional relations with VINCI Concessions, he offered to sponsor the project. The VINCI Foundation paid €29,000 to Entraide in October 2011, a sum used in particular to expand the association’s premises and improve reception.

Franck Dhersin sees himself as an intermediary. “I knew how dynamic the organisation was and appreciated their way of working and their actions. My role?... Try to be a relay with inter-commune and department policy bodies, and with VINCI.” And when the association has problems, he tries to find solutions.

June 2012 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.