Wednesday kids’ activities

We wrote previously about Homework Club, which runs most of nights of the week at the moment. Well, Wednesdays isn’t about homework. It’s much more fun! Here’s the report from Felicity:

 

Some Lake Aiders and I had a really lovely time last Wednesday doing puzzles, colouring and reading stories. The kids enjoyed it too. There were around 15 children aged 3-9 of various nationalities including African, Kosovar and Bosnian. Some parents with babies and toddlers sat nearby and chatted with us. The atmosphere was very friendly and the kids were really happy to play! We noticed the girls were more into our craft activities than the boys, so if anyone has any mechano/lego/construction toys to donate, we suspect that might be more popular with the boys. Any other toy donations which might pique their interest are welcome, of course!

Felicity and other Lake Aiders will be going again on Wednesdays as regularly as possible, and this might be a nice, informal way for anyone interested in helping to get to see what Lake Aid is all about without the formality of helping with homework. Feel free to get in touch!

Homework Club reopens

Providing educational support to school-aged children remains one of Lake Aid’s primary goals. During the 2015/2016 school year, Lake Aid volunteers started ‘Homework Club’, where children from asylum-seeking and homeless families were given help with their school work. Homework Club was put on hold during autumn when evicted families were scattered and Lake Aid focussed on working with other local associations to help keep them sheltered.

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starryeyedWith the winter shelter now open and families safe and warm, Lake Aid has restarted Homework Club. The local Red Cross has kindly agreed to provide a room at their centre on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm to 8pm for homework help, plus a space for recreational activities (such as painting and reading) on Wednesdays from 3pm to 5pm.

Around 70 kids are residing at the centre, and we are seeking volunteers in the Annecy area. Help is needed with reading, writing, playing educational games, encouraging, listening and simply befriending. Everyone is welcome, whether French- or English-speaking, and regardless of teaching experience.

Even if you only have one evening a fortnight available, please get in touch, or join the Facebook group to learn more about our community. The Facebook group also provides regular updates about Homework Club and other Lake Aid activities, so we encourage you to join if you’re interested in keeping up to date.

Freezing weather appeal

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Temperatures are plummeting this weekend in Annecy, and around 150 people are expected to stay at the shelters in Annecy this weekend.

Everyone’s generous donations to date have helped keep many kids and adults warm, but warm clothes and shoes for all ages are still needed urgently.

Anyone in the local area can take items directly Centre Georges Bonnet at 1 Route de la Petite Jeanne (at the base of the Semnoz). Thanks in advance for your kindness.

Christmas party!

On 22 December, Lake Aid partnered with Secours Populaire France 74, La Ligue Des Droits Des Hommes, and Le Collectif Urgence Roms 74 to provide a Christmas party for homeless children. Lake Aid provided all the logistical arrangements, involving five coaches and a team of volunteers, more than a hundred gifts, entertainment including a clown and an elf, craft activities, a play area for younger kids, and a photo booth complete with Santa Claus himself! More than twenty Lake Aiders were there on the day, preparing in the morning and being present all afternoon during the event, and many more donated money and gifts. This event was loads of fun for our guests, with both parents and children thrilled with the activities, and very rewarding for everyone involved. We look forward to making it even better next year — this time with the benefit of experience!

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Autumn update

After a few months of challenges, we write with good news.

But first, some updates. The refugee families in Annecy were evicted again in October, around a month before the winter shelters were due to open. Some were given temporary shelter and some were not. Kind residents took in families who had nowhere to live, and kind people donated to Lake Aid and other local charities, who helped cover housing costs. More refugees arrived from Calais and are being sheltered in a dedicated place. The Annecy arm of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme are collecting winter clothing for men if anyone would like to donate.

The winter shelters are now slowly taking in existing refugee families, and the Red Cross and other charities are collecting blankets and clothes. Lake Aid members have been delivering goods to both groups of refugees and will continue to do so. Currently, the shelter is requesting that only blankets and warm clothes are donated (pillows and toys/books are not yet required, but might be soon — watch this space).

More good news: After running a successful homework club for the children at the refugee’s old shelter, Lake Aid was keen to restart it after the summer holidays. We’ve been working with the Red Cross to allocate a suitable space. Homework Club is important to Lake Aid because our primary goal is to help refugee children in and around Annecy. Once we have confirmed details, we’ll provide more information here.

For now, the most urgent need is keeping everyone warm. If you are nearby and have blankets or winter clothes to give, you can get in touch with us via this blog or take them directly to Croix Rouge Annecy or to the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme in Annecy. If you’re not nearby, you can donate money to those charities or via the Lake Aid Pot Commune.

 

Mountain fun day for the kids

  • Lake Aid took 13 refugee kids (and a few of the adults!) to the Alps for a hike, picnic and zipwire across Lac des Confins in La Clusaz. The day was a huge hit! Thanks to the volunteers, everyone who has donated to help the families (we use a small portion to pay for the zipwire and some picnic food), Skiidy Gonzales for providing the transportation, the zipwire man for doing a group deal for us and James Geen for taking some lovely photos.

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Currently, most of the families are living in temporary accommodation with no running water, and they have been told that they can stay for another month (when the building is due to be demolished). One family is living in a car, and one family is two hours away and hoping to return to Annecy before the kids start back at school. Last week, a family seeking refugee status arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have accommodation for the next week or so. They are in touch with the local housing charities. Lake Aid volunteers are helping the mum and three small kids adjust as much as possible. We’ve sourced a buggy, clothing and shoes thanks to some kind donations.

Edison, Olta, Aldin and Namila — news from the family deported to Pristina last Thursday

By Manuela Frésil — documentary maker.

Two and a half years

I know very little about Olta’s family history. I don’t know why they came to France. I only know that they lived in Belgium before coming to Annecy.

Of all the families that lived “outside” in France, this one’s story has been the most cruel. Edison, the eldest child, is autistic. Because of this, he attended a special school. He’s a kind boy who is fairly communicative and happy. Olta is a little girl like all other little girls, but in these last few months, I’ve seen how worried and insecure she is about how far behind she is at school. Aldin is just like Aladdin — clever, helpful and acrobatic. Namilla is 5 years old. She’s caring and talks easily.

It’s Namilla who told me about their return on the plane. I asked her if she’d seen the clouds; she said yes, but that she had been sick. She then added “you know, we don’t have a house here”. She said it simply, without emphasis, without any particular sadness. As if she was saying “it’s my birthday tomorrow” or “we’re going to the lake tomorrow”.

Lake Aid Annecy - helping refugees in France

September: Olta doing her homework in the square in front of the station.

I first met some of the children last summer in the square in front of the station. Olta and Burim (a child that lives with the Romanians — 6 years living on the streets) had a project to make a Frozen choreography that I filmed and subsequently put in the film. On this occasion, I spoke with the parents and learned a bit more about their lives. They did not really sleep outside but in a sort of  cellar, with no water or electricity, to which, a man – an Arab – pitying them, had given them a key, on the condition that they only stay there during the night.

Previously, they had spent two and a half months on the station carpark, then moved to the infamous “116” squat — an old ruined building in a filthy state. There were no toilets and no water. I won’t go into details here even though the children talked about it a lot. 116 was evacuated by the police, meaning the children have now lived through the trauma of being arrested.  Between the carpark, the ruined house and the cellar, they “survived” like this for two and a half years, before some respite at l’école de Fins.

Lake Aid Annecy - donate to refugee aid

New Years Eve: the family had been at the Ecole des Fins temporary shelter for a month and a half. I wished them a Happy New Year and they wished me one too.

Feta, their mother, took care of her little family: the kids were always properly dressed and as clean as they could be. She insisted that homework was done, even if she was not able to help them. All four children are polite, helpful, and know how to say “thank you”.

As we are Facebook friends, they called me Saturday from Kosovo. Feta, after having reassured me, asked me for my help. First, she asked me to call their lawyer, and then, if it was at all possible, she asked me to send them a bit of money. I know from “the gang” that they are a very poor family. It is very unlikely that their limited relatives have enough money to help them. They are living with cousins at the moment, but according to Olta, only for a few days.

In normal times and in another department of France, this family might have already been given papers on a humanitarian basis, taking into account the things they have lived through and due to Edison’s handicap. The council wanted to make an example of them. I don’t believe that we need to help all the people that are sent back to Albania, Kosovo or Bosnia but the Rexhepi family’s situation is particular. They never benefited from any sort of lodging like Cada or G. Bonnet. After having lived more than two and a half years on the streets of Annecy, if we don’t help them – even just a little – they will be back on the streets in Pristina.

This family does not deserve this and I’m scared for Olta who will soon become a young woman.


Thanks to Manuela for sharing Olta and her family’s story with us.

This family landed in Pristina with nothing. Feta has asked for €600 to avoid sleeping in the streets. If you would like to help, please don’t hesitate to donate via Lake Aid.

Lake Aid pot commun donation site: www.lepotcommun.fr/pot/3wc8c4qu