The community of the Daughters of Jesus, rue Admiral Defforges, tell us about their journey with and their commitment to a Syrian family. This family who arrived in Vannes, France in May 2019, had to flee their country, and were welcomed through humanitarian corridors.
A brief history
In January 2019, at the rue Amiral Desfforges, Vannes, Ms Claire Legrand, of the Saint Egidio Community, presented the Community’s projects to a group of Daughters of Jesus, Associates and people involved in charitable sectors.
The Companionship with our Brothers in Syria was born from this meeting, and has become effective, thanks to volunteers who have shared out the various tasks required. For us as Daughters of Jesus, it is a mission that corresponds well to our Charism
Welcome and installation
It has been almost 14 months since the Alkhalafs, a Syrian family with 5 children, arrived to live an experience of familiarisation, then of fraternity. Fleeing Syria, after having transited through Lebanon, they arrived in France via the “Humanitarian Corridors”, one of whose partners is the Saint Egidio Community. On 22 May 2019, they took possession of a Congregation property in the rue Maréchal Foch, Vannes. The comfortable, spacious house with its small park immediately put them at ease. They were smiling and very sociable from the outset and we all felt comfortable with them. The space of the park and the big house made the unforeseen ordeal of the period of confinement easier for them!
A long thought-out project
During this time, we have travelled a real path of humanity together. A Welcome Committee had been set up beforehand and, gradually, there too, links have been forged. Over the months, these links have been strengthened by working together in common action. We had wagered that we could carry out this project successfully even with the risks involved. We called on people we met in the choir, in the parish, in diocesan bodies. Each one, according to his or her skills, availability, and tastes, set to work on a common task, sharing the same desire: to act together to facilitate the integration of this family in Brittany.
A commitment in all areas
Personally, what we appreciated was the seriousness and generosity with which the people of Vannes committed themselves with us, the Daughters of Jesus, for all the administrative matters. This was no mean task! There was the follow-up of the children’s schooling, with all five of them enrolled, from nursery school through to the college in the Sacred Heart complex in Vannes. We made a happy discovery there as they have been remarkably welcomed both at the college and at the school. The educational and administrative staff have really invested themselves and the children have benefited from spontaneous, voluntary support, even during the summer holidays. A lot of generosity has been shown as well as tenacity, patience, and encouragement. Leisure activities such as family outings to Branféré and other places have been organised, and sports tickets collected during the holidays. A Sister has taken care of the “health sector”, an activity requiring competence, rigour, and a lot of availability.
The family’s successful integration has been due to the investment of the reception team where everyone has found their place. We have evaluated the progress made and measured what remains to be perfected: helping them to achieve greater autonomy, finding a house or flat, finding a job for the father.
From the outset, our objective has been that everyone, parents and children alike, should be able to “do without us”! We want them to create their own network of relationships, professional, social and leisure activities. The less they rely on us, the more they will integrate. As they achieve increasing autonomy, so the graft will take and consolidate. They will also be able to consolidate their relationships with the mosque they attend.
What we have retained from the experience
What stands out is the mutual enrichment acquired during these 14 months of approaching a different culture. We hope that this experience will facilitate our divergent approaches to the realities of our daily lives, even between people of the same nationality and culture. It is sometimes easier and less disturbing to welcome a “stranger” than a neighbour!
In a world marked by fractures of all kinds, we hope that these bonds of closeness and fraternity will be a ray of light for these Eastern countries so marked by the cruelty of situations. We do so in the name of our own humanity and our faith in Jesus Christ.
Marie-Thérèse LE LUEL – Maryvonne GRU – Marie-Andrée SERVEL, Vannes, France