The “Bagagerie Cœur du Cinq “, a luggage store for people on the street in the heart of Paris, has just celebrated its first birthday. Sr Rhona Burns dj, a volunteer in this new project, explains to us how the association has joined in the struggle against precarity in Paris and is in line with the orientations of our Congregation.
« Happy Birthday ! »
On the evening of the 14th November 2017, the small premises of the “Bagagerie Coeur du Cinq” in the 5th arrondissement of Paris were full to bursting with those we welcome, volunteers, town councillors and partners: all gathered to celebrate its first year of operation. It was our opportunity to sing “Happy Birthday” and to officially thank all those who have supported us during the setting up of the project.
Pride of place first of all to speeches from the President of the association and from the representatives of the local town hall and the Mayor of Paris, our principal financial backers. Between them they gave an overview of the aim of our mission :
- To offer a “left luggage” service with 54 spaces where people on the street can store their personal belongings. The premises are open morning and evening and we give priority to offering a welcome and a listening ear.
- To accompany people who are on the street in order to help them in the steps towards reinserting themselves in society, professionally and socially.
- To be a modest and well-focused project, operating at a local level but as part of the large Parisian Convention on fighting exclusion.
- To invite the local inhabitants as well as those in civil and political responsibility to change how they regard people on the street.
What touched us the most was the testimony of a person we used to welcome, who lived for two years on the street. At the beginning he lost all his points of reference and experienced a terrible solitude. He didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. Little by little, he found new reference points thanks to other street people he came across. It was they who directed him to different associations, often unfortunately overwhelmed. After a long and difficult journey he has found lodging and employment and has himself become a volunteer at the Bagagerie.
“ … I have to say that it would have been almost impossible if I had not had the good luck to meet the team at the “Bagagerie Coeur du Cinq”. With them you feel human again. Even if it is only for 4 hours a day, it is fundamental.”
I too can say that I have had the good luck to meet the team of the Bagagerie. For me, being a volunteer there is challenging. Sometimes it is more than a bit hard to be welcoming and listening at seven o’clock in the morning. Faced with the immense problem of the precarity here in Paris, I feel like a tiny piece in a very big jigsaw.
At the same time I have discovered :
- That behind the façade of a neighbourhood voted “the Parisians’ favourite arrondissement 2017”, there exists a world of hassle just to survive from one day to the next.
- That finding yourself on the street can happen to anyone and for a multitude of reasons.
- That the different origins, languages, cultures and life experiences of people on the street make up a richness to be enjoyed and appreciated.
This year in the Province France-Belgium, our Orientation is to “Give thanks”. Like the person who spoke at the party, I would like to give thanks in my turn for all “the signs of God’s presence at work around me” and especially at the “Bagagerie Coeur du Cinq”.
Rhona Burns (bénévole)