From Syria to Rheu … by way of Lebanon

 

During the assemblies to launch the year, the Provincial Council of France-Belgium informed the Sisters of a project to receive refugees in one or another of our houses whose closure was being considered. In collaboration with the Community of Sant’Egidio, this project has become a reality in RHEU, a small town close to Rennes (France).

For several months now, sisters and volunteers had been preparing to welcome a Syrian family who had taken refuge in Lebanon. They landed at Roissy airport in Paris, on February 26th, 2019. After the usual procedures, there they were with their five children and their luggage, to be met by a delegation from the Community of Sant’Egidio and myself, representing the Congregation. We welcomed them with flowers and drinks in a room at the airport. Tired but still smiling, we then took them to the rue d’Arras, our ‘headquarters’ in the centre of Paris. There, the community and the General Council also welcomed them warmly and offered them an evening meal. Faces began to relax. The three eldest children translated for their parents and already the younger ones were starting to sing, in French.

The next day, the family and their luggage went on to Montparnasse station to take the train for Brittany. In Rennes, a team from Le Rheu along with Sisters Christiane Lorcy, Jacqueline Quérat and Yvonne Guézennec helped to organize the last part of the trip.

Finally, there we all were at Rheu. The house will be theirs until they obtain their residence permit. A small commission greeted us with drinks and cakes.

Réfugiés au Rheu

Since then, without delaying, the team of volunteers has knocked on all the doors of those who could help them to settle in. On March 5th, everyone went to the Préfecture – the Police headquarters. Little by little, we have helped them with all the administrative procedures, finding food, enrolling in schools. If all the translations are done correctly and the files up to date, doors will open. Until the “solidarity grocery store” is open to them, the “Restos du cœur” (« Restaurants of the Heart », a charity organisation) are providing the necessary food for the family. The parents are enrolled in twice-weekly French classes. The younger children began at St Mary’s School in the middle of March and are delighted with it. The two older children must take tests to determine their level and will then be directed towards a college with the most appropriate courses.

Everywhere we have gone, we have received an excellent welcome from the various structures that we have visited.

Sister Marie-Andrée Le Mouël

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