Friends of Sézane

Friends of Sézane

Interview

Anne-Marie Gosse

A career humanitarian who makes things happen
01.21.18

In the heart of the 20th arrondissement of Paris, there exists a warm place that welcomes patients with advanced chronic diseases: a place to talk, seek care, and learn to live better lives despite their illnesses. Meet Anne-Marie Gosse, who has been running this association called "Dessine-moi un Mouton" for the last six years.

Profession: President of the nonprofit "Dessine-moi un mouton"
Mission: To create a welcoming place for people with chronic and life-taking illness.
Conviction: We can always make things happen.
 
"Dessine-moi un mouton" is a charity that came about during the AIDS years. What was its original purpose?
The idea, 26 years ago, was to take care of the whole family in which HIV had an impact: children and their parents, who have to deal with this life-changing news. One of the charity's key roles is teaching how to cope with uncertainty. The patients take on a great responsibility: they need real and immediate follow-ups. Given the complexity of the disease, our charity quickly springs into action, with psychologists, educators, nurses. In 1996, the advent of tritherapies revolutionaized the lives of patients, significantly extending their life expectancy. We have created a teenagers / young adults program to accompany them throughout their lives; there is also a prenatal center, for pregnant women carrying the virus, who can now have a fully healthy baby thanks to the newest treatments. Despite medical advances, society's view on HIV is still very discriminatory... despite the fact that there are 6000-7000 new infections each year in France. 
 
Then the association opened to other pathologies...
Since 2010, we have also welcomed patients with other chronic diseases of infectious or genetic origin. Chronic diseases are the curse of the century: 15 million suffer in France from it. We take care of patients that the hospital cannot take care of permanently – patients in very precarious situations. We mostly see mothers, young people, and single parent families. We have developed a support model to better live with the disease: in addition to our place of reception, we also offer therapeutic stays. Today, there are about 15 people working in the association, which has a somewhat atypical status because it crosses several areas: social causes, health/medical, youth, parents... we do not like to fit within one box!
 
What is the typical week like at your reception center in the 20th arrondissement?
It's an open office where people can come without appointment. Women and young people are often sent to us by hospitals that we have a strong relationship with: sometimes, for a first meeting, our practitioners also travel there. The idea is to make these patients feel good. We have a multidisciplinary team of nurses, educators and psychologists. Each person is free to meet with them according to their needs. There is no typical path; it's a la carte. We also organize discussion groups, therapeutic workshops, tutoring... and sometimes, we are faced with emergencies. People in great risk have no place to sleep, so we make phone calls to find accommodations. The queue of people in need is always full: sometimes, we cannot put in the front of the line a young woman who has a baby in her arms and who is ill. We regularly accommodate around 200 people a year. The prenatal unit requires the most work to stabilize situations. We have suicide attempts too... despite the glamorous name of the association, we have constant serious things to deal with.
What attracted you to the nonprofit world?
I joined "Dessine-moi un mouton"  just over 6 years ago. I completed business school, then 6 months of marketing... I didn't like it and wanted to do something to change society. I went on a humanitarian mission to Armenia with the Red Cross. I worked for Reporters WIthout Borders, for the Panos Institute... then I had my own children and I looked for a job in Paris. I chanced upon a charity that fights against AIDS and also became part of the fund selection committee of Sidaction. It's been a good ten years since I've been happily working in this role.

What challenges did you face when you first arrived at "Dessine-moi un mouton?"
I wanted to develop and integrate the foundation of physical practices into patient care. Self-esteem is often affected by physical diseases, and we realized that mind and body exercises had a positive impact. The Felden Kreis method, in particular, allows you to regain consciousness of your body through gentle, mindful movement; we are even launching a research project with Inserm to show the impact that exercises can have in medical care. We also added hired a few socio-beauticians to join our team, who teach the patients how to take care of themselves, from make-up to hair and so forth. Some patients say that this brings relief, and it allows them to feel better socially. Now, these practitioners are part of the team in the same way as others; it took time to integrate them. For me, that is the true wealth: addressing the whole picture. 
 
Demain (tomorrow), what does that mean for you?
Demain is today. We can always move things. My motto is to "always believe" The day when I will not believe in anything, I'll be finished!