I wanted to bring my little stone to the building, to do something good for others. “ Dorothée, 37, walked the talk by organizing solidarity lunches for students. Time for a meal shared with the family, “they come out of their isolation”, notes this young mother from Nogent-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne). Like Dorothée, faced with the health, economic and social crisis caused by the Covid-19, Robin, Cécile, Catarina, Samuel, Elisabeth and Marine were driven by a surge of solidarity. All responded to the call for testimonials launched by franceinfo.
On the first evening of confinement in March, Elisabeth, 46, picked up her phone to call her relatives. “I needed to act beyond the 8pm applause”, she confides. “Every night, I would call someone for an hour.” First his family, then acquaintances and friends “lost to follow-up for three years”. In total, Elisabeth heard from a “good sixty” of people, who were able, with her, to thwart solitude, the time of a conversation.
“Very quickly I called my acquaintances working in the medical field to pass them a nice little note and inquire about what they were going through.”
Some of these conversations may have had concrete effects. “I was able to help people, like this lady who was leaving the hospital and who had no follow-up at home”, illustrates the one who works for the Bourgogne Franche-Comté region, and who was able to better orient it.
Cécile, 55, began to support her geographical surroundings. In mid-March, this lawyer created a group on WhatsApp messaging to bring together the inhabitants of her stairwell, in a building in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. “I felt that the situation was very difficult for everyone: a neighbor had broken her foot, others did not have a printer to edit the certificates … So I stuck a poster in the ‘lift to offer to set up a support group “, explains Cécile.
Little by little, solidarity was organized on all floors of the building. It was about“print certificates”, of “to give news of a hospitalized neighbor” or from “ride another’s races”. The group seems on track to last beyond the curfew. “With the eight families of the group, we reach out to a dozen families and we particularly help the elderly and those in difficulty”, explains the initiator of the movement.
Because the health crisis particularly affects students and seniors who find themselves isolated. It is to these that Catarina, 51, wanted to help. “I wanted to do it for a long time, but I didn’t know how to go about it”, testifies this flight attendant. For a month and a half, she has been meeting around ten residents of a nursing home in Charenton-le-Pont (Val-de-Marne), two afternoons a week. She took advantage of the sharp drop in her activity to respond to an announcement from the Aviation sans frontières association (ASF), which was looking for volunteers. “We play, we chat and we sing together”, she says, “delighted”.
“Sometimes I take the stress out of time-strapped staff by helping a resident with a phone or television problem.”
Dorothée, on parental leave, remembers the difficult time when she had to leave her parents for her studies: this is what prompted her to reach out to “students stuck alone away from their families”. “Seeing the deteriorating situation of the students, it was like a slap in the face, I had to do something”, she recounts. At the end of January, she created a Facebook page called “Déjeuners solidaires”, whose members offer students from the faculty of Créteil to share a moment with their family. “A young student came to have a snack in one of the host families, says Dorothée. She had the impression for two hours to find her family, her sisters. “
The “distress” students also pushed Robin, 28, to quit his commercial position to join the “student life” pole of the faculty of Rennes. In a roommate with a student, Robin realized that “his state of mind was deteriorating”. “With the second confinement, I saw that my student friends responded less and less to my requests, that they lost their joy of living …” details the one who also had the feeling “not being useful where needed”.
Since mid-January, Robin has been accompanying hundreds of students on campus, by lending them a computer, by unlocking a connection aid of 50 euros or by assigning them a sponsor. “Yesterday, there is a student who came to see me in complete panic for lack of information on his course. I was able to redirect him to the right people.”, specifies the young man barely older than those he helps.
Marine, 34, was also keen to help and break with isolation, when she created a solidarity group on Facebook. “The meeting place for the girls of Poitiers” will soon be celebrating her twelve months. At the time, this unemployed graphic designer found “heavy” the announcement of the first confinement.
“When we were told ‘everyone at your house without seeing anyone’, I thought it was time to create this support group for girls, to break the loneliness.
The young woman assures that “s‘there is one person in this group who has a problem, they can discuss it without judgment “. Today, around 2,000 subscribers share good addresses (dentists, nurses, mechanics, etc.), their tips, and organize cooking, yoga or make-up workshops live on Facebook. “Thanks to the group, young mothers who did not know anyone around them were able to meet their close neighbors, confirms Marine, others have found a job or made contacts for their work “.
Solidarity has also taken a professional turn at Samuel, 40 years old. Since the closure of concert halls and the cancellation of tours, this guitarist-composer no longer plays, which has had serious consequences on his income. This is what prompted him to create a streaming content platform to bring artists and their audiences closer together. “This solidarity streaming platform is a response to the problem of the crisis, to the lack of live and to the cost of online digital content”, develops Samuel. By making his platform available to musicians for free, he wants them to get closer to their fans and their “give back the possibility of controlling their income”.
Modest, the witnesses interviewed all admit to having benefited from their joint commitment, “an experience that pushes us beyond ourselves”, in Dorothy’s words. “It does me good to help the students anyway, recognizes Robin. I feel like I’m helpful and doing the right thing where it is needed. “ Catarina didn’t think that giving a little of her time to the elderly would bring her so much: “It’s an atmosphere that is good for everyone at the nursing home!” For her part, Cécile sees the effects of the group of neighbors every day: in her building, the atmosphere has warmed up. “By dint of mutual assistance, there are many exchanges on many different subjects”, she says.
For Elisabeth, phone calls are a real “breath of fresh air, in touch with the concrete reality of what people experience.” The one who says she hated “visio aperitifs” lived off “best moments” with his phone calls to strangers. Even if his job “very addicting” leaves her little time, she wants to perpetuate these moments that break loneliness, the time of a conversation.
When life “normal” will have resumed its course, some are thinking of transforming this one-off aid into a lasting commitment. “It seems that when we start, we no longer want to stop”, breaths Dorothy. Thus, Elisabeth is considering reorienting herself professionally in the social sector, Marine plans to create a mutual aid association dedicated to women and Catarina “dream of marauding”. As for Robin, whose contract ends in June, he does not plan for the moment. “I responded to the emergency and didn’t think about the aftermath.” In the meantime, all hope that their solidarity will inspire others.