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"Paseo", parents helping other parents

Occitanie - Nîmes
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods

Parents helping other parents? The idea is simple and has been around in Great Britain since the 1970s. But it would take until 2007 and the creation of Paseo association in the disadvantaged neighbourhood of Pissevin in Nimes for the initiative to find its way to France.



“I was a volunteer in London, I was ‘just’ a mother and was able to help another mother,” says Laurence Relin, founder and coordinator of Paseo association. “Families need in-home support, not to visit social services offices.” The presence of non-professionals is generally accepted more easily by families in difficult situations because they feel like they are on equal footing with other parents. “I take care of one mom, I bring her to the doctor, we go grocery shopping together. I feel like I’m an aunt who teaches her many things,” says Claire Gheeraert, retired and a volunteer for the past three years.

Rediscover the joy of going out

Once a week, each volunteer visits a family and helps with daily tasks. To mobilize parents and children and allow them to develop a level of complicity, the volunteers also bring board games. “I realized I could play with my children without worrying. I also discovered walks, and I’m still taking my children to the media library,” says Fatima Bellouti with enthusiasm. She found Paseo during her fourth pregnancy. This support restored her confidence and she now continues to make it on her own. “The volunteer got me out of the house and helped me forget my unplanned pregnancy. No one forces you to stay home, we create our own psychological barriers,” explains Fatima Bellouti. The goal is to make families autonomous. Therefore, these weekly visits extend over a maximum of one year. In more than 90% of cases, the goals are attained. The families can then continue to attend the “Wednesday game days” organized every month at association headquarters.

Share skills

This autonomy-building approach especially pleased Stéphane Ageron, enterprise head with Santerne Camargue (VINCI Energies) and Paseo sponsor. “It’s good because it isn’t a hand out,” she says. “The volunteers also encourage families to get to know other people in their neighbourhood, so that they feel less alone.” In 2010, the association received a grant from the Fondation VINCI pour la Cité in the amount of €7,500 to purchase, among other things, games, books and accounting software. Isabelle Gabriac, administrative and accounting head with the same company and association sponsor also, provided training on how to use the new software. “We helped them establish their cash flow ledger. We were able to give them a lot, and we also told others about their project,” she says. In 2011, Paseo’s 17 volunteers supported 25 families—more than 60 children. This number has been rising steadily for the past five years.

July 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.