The Nord-Flandre chapter has been leading the thinking of AFS France on the matter of refugees, so it was only natural that it would also lead the actions! So we invited refugees to our last hosting weekend, through another association called Mitrajectoire, whose president had been a part of the French AFS think tank on the topic.
As every year, we were invited into the Lille Town hall, where we give a taste of official ceremonies to our participants. The Town hall representative was keen on welcoming the AFS participants together with the refugees, and was glad that another kind of guests would be there. Indeed, the town of Lille had participated in our think tank through an interview.
We then went to the “Maison des Associations”, where we usually go for our weekends, to start an activity especially designed for the occasion: “My Future”. The pitch was to make the youngsters draw their “ideal future”. We then mixed up the drawings and stuck them up on the wall. Once they had a good look at it, we asked some questions: Is there a future that’s appealing to you? Do all these futures make you want to change yours? Then we just had to fuel the conversations! The idea is to put our participants and the refugees at the same level by talking about the future.
« My future » was a success, for our participants as much as for our refugee guests. The exchange students were very interested in meeting other young travelers, and were deeply moved by the experience. The refugees were glad to be able to share some quality time with other migrants. One of them found the opportunity so good that he chose to stay with us until the end of the day… forcing the volunteers to adapt some of the activities! Luckily, AFS is a good improvisation school!
The organisation of such an event didn’t really take much more time than usual. The French think tank on the matter of refugees is going to evolve into an action group, to help the willing French chapters to do new things on that theme. There will also be a training session on this topic during the big training event of AFS France in August. If you are not French and you have some questions, feel free to contact the organisers on the AFS World Café
Thomas LACROIX – Chapter president of the Nord Flandre Chapter – AFS France