It has been a long time since Linda and Artan, 33 and 40 years old, last saw their family back in Albania (1). So, they readily describe Anyvonne as a “second mother”. This sweet-faced retiree, who worked in the social sector for a long time, is one of the volunteers of “Math’Accueil solidaire”. This association was founded in 2016 by the parish of Saint-Matthieu-sur-Loire, on the outskirts of Nantes, in the wake of Pope Francis’ appeal in favor of migrants. Its objective is to welcome, accommodate and support asylum seekers, referred by partner associations. For this purpose it has ten houses, two of which belong to the parish, two are loaned by individuals and six by real estate developers, pending their destruction.
The 50 volunteers commit to varying degrees to furnish the houses or support the families accommodated, most often in pairs. “By making these services very concrete, people discover the joy of getting involved and living the Gospel, whether they are parishioners or not,” comments Father Gilles Dalibert, priest of the parish based in Sainte-Luce-sur- Loire. Bonds of understanding and reciprocal exchange are then formed which overcome the fears conveyed by certain media comments. » Which does not prevent some “cultural shocks” with these families from Gabon, Sudan, Syria or Eastern countries. “At the beginning, people are often afraid and traumatized by their exile journey,” notes Dominique Foret, co-president of the association and former finance executive, who takes the time to gain their trust. He also observes that “in Muslim families, women tend to hide behind their husbands and not dare leave the house.”
Anyvonne “gets a lot out of these meetings which help put small worries into perspective”. She has long supported Linda and Artan, who fled Albania in 2015 and lived several nights on the streets. Hosted for almost three years by Matth’Accueil solidaire, they are particularly in need of support. Their youngest son, 7 years old, has non-verbal autism. “At night, he doesn’t sleep, and we don’t,” Linda slips while still smiling. Volunteers therefore often come to visit him and bring their 11-year-old son to his football practices. “I admire this endearing family,” comments Marie-Annick Herbet, co-president of the association, who helps the eldest with his homework and knows how to soothe his little brother.
She also accompanies a “very isolated” Congolese family, far from the habits of her country of origin where “everyone is very present and takes care of the children”. The goodwill of the team is not always enough. She finds herself helpless in the face of the glaring lack of social housing available for these families, despite obtaining papers and long-term employment contracts. “Those who think that borders should be abolished are sweet dreamers,” warns Dominique Foret. But I find it difficult to understand why we don’t provide more dignified support for people who we are not capable of, for a whole host of reasons, sending back to their country. »