What does a normal week look like at this social centre?
On Tuesday mornings, team members go to a food bank to pick up 300kg of food. We prepare to distribute the food to families with limited resources, who often do have the right to work in France. In the afternoon, there is a French lesson for men and women in social housing : while they are in the class, we take care of their children. On Wednesday, we organize ateliers in the street around the area. During the week there are about 11 ateliers and events in Longjumeau (south area), Massy and in the slums of Nord Essonne. Friday at midday, we run a cantine for children to come and have lunch. On Saturdays, we have a music rehearsal.
You have been a teacher and principal in your past life, before becoming the head of this charity. How did you get into this kind of sector?
When I was principal at a school in Longjumeau, I wanted to make sure the school was an open welcoming environment. I almost got there with a federation of schools…but that was it. It kept coming up an issue by our teachers themselves, the council, and the government…I wanted to create a charity around the school. I resigned, to devote myself entirely to this. The normal social institutions never manage to create relationship with people in precarious situations. That is why I turned to charity. It clicked when I worked on workshops in Ivry. The council wanted us to work with kids in the street. I suddenly noticed this invisible population in French society. If we do not take care of them, we can almost pretend as if they do not exist. At Intermedes Robinson, we work with those who are under the spotlight. Our charity has however won prizes (Droits de l’homme de la République française décerné par la Commission nationale consultative des Droits de l’homme) which is quite unusual for a French charity.
« « I suddenly noticed this invisible population in French society » »
You have also studied philosophy, which led you to do a doctorate. Whose is your inspiration?
Emmanuel Kant ! He thinks about autonomy and the living being. It is he who says that we cannot incite someone to be autonomous, it is something that comes from within. We cannot teach it, we have to make them live it. He was a great philosopher in my eyes. I am also inspired by the great social pedagogues : Paolo Freire, the father of the development of the power to act, and also Célestin Freinet.
Demain, what does that mean for you?
I want to make it mean « deux-mains ». ‘Two hands’. It’s about doing it together. The problem about cities is that tomorrow does not exist. The future is always seen as worse than today. Together, by working with people where they live, without any intermediary, we will be able to change that.