Grow while helping others

“Today, this is an opportunity to exchange and share your professional stories. To initiate dialogue, we have chosen four different experiences that illustrate the rich diversity of civic engagement with the Engagement free unit of study”, announced Stéphane Villain, Assistant Director of Campus Life at Université de Paris, during the joint workshops on 6 April 2021.

Volunteering, social engagement empowering students to grow

Yasmine Chalek, a first-year student from the English Studies programme, has been chosen for her community work with the non-profit “Donnons-leur une chance”, which provides assistance for people abroad (e.g. in Somalia or Ethiopia).  

“I have really enjoyed this opportunity to share my skills with a non-profit organisation that I feel a lot of affinity with. We have carried out donations at various women’s shelters in France, as well as orphanages. I have been able to meet volunteers and managers who have helped me to grow as a person while helping disadvantaged people. For me, it has been really great to transform this student engagement into a commitment each day”.

Learning support to build close connections

Océane Desbonnes, a second-year Biology student, talks about her learning support initiative. As a volunteer with the non-profit AFEV, she provides a child with individual support. This work is not limited to just academic support, but also aims to restore the child’s self-confidence : 

“I am supporting an 11-year-old boy who is in his first year of senior school. I help him with his homework when he finds it difficult, I take him to the library and enable him to discover new books, we play board games, and we talk about his life as a high school student and his interests. I always try to provide an educational perspective for the activities that I invite him to do so that he does not feel like he is working too much. I ensure that he enjoys taking part in all the activities and I motivate him by highlighting his skills so that he can grow in confidence”. This engagement benefits the young boy as well as Océane: “I really have taken a lot from this experience, I have built a real trust-based relationship with him and his family. I have learned to be proactive: for example, I organised a treasure hunt in his neighbourhood so that he could discover various cultural places. And I always try to adapt when he does not like one of the activities. This really is an exchange-based relationship, because he has also taught me new things”.

She would like to express her gratitude to the non-profit association AFEV.

Engement for community actions

Student engagement enables community actions to be carried out at local level. This is illustrated by Elodie Thoretton, a first-year Sociology student, who has carried out a civic engagement action with the non-profit “En avant toute !”, providing support for young women who have experienced problems with their life as a couple.

“I am part of the unit focused on building awareness and we create publications highlighting sexist comments. We contact various people in order to help get our messages across. This experience has taught me how to stay calm when dealing with other people”.

“My sociology classes have been very useful and have provided me with theoretical support when I need to address cases of gender bias. Thanks to this charity, I have grown in confidence and really feel part of a community”.

However, student engagement also enables community actions to be carried out at campus level. Clément Rizat, a first-year Geography and Urban Development student and head of events for the association Pangéo, talks about his actions as part of the Zéro Mégot – Zero Cigarette Butt – project at Paris Diderot: 

“This project is currently underway, enabling us to head out to meet students and staff to raise their awareness of sustainable development and recycling”.

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