Twice a week, volunteers for the Red Cross visit the homeless and refugees in and around the 17th arrondissement to address a range of basic needs. With the winter months around the corner, the American Cathedral is reaching out to the expatriate community in Paris to help support this important work.
David Guilbert, a member of the Cathedral Association and volunteer for the Red Cross, talks about his experiences.
"While helping with basic human necessities is critical, it’s often just as important to establish a human connection in the street. One of the most important things the Red Cross provides is a friendly face in a dangerous place. When you are on the street, isolation compounds all your difficulties. Human contact is what gives people a fighting chance to make it to the next day, and perhaps even make it off the street. Without it, people simply give up."
“After some time out with the Red Cross,” says David, “I realized this was probably the biggest hardship they faced. So, we don’t just go, give them food and clothes, then leave. We try to spend as much time as we can just sitting and talking to them. They become people we know, and they know us. For some, we are the only social link they have.”
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The Red Cross teams start out by loading up with canned food, cookies, noodles, soups and coffee. They make regular stops where they know people are struggling. They also take time to focus on hygiene—keeping clean is a constant challenge for people in the streets who don’t always have access to basic toilets and shower facilities. Finally, staying warm and dry is high on the list of priorities. A single rainstorm in the fall and winter can soak all that you have and completely ruin it.
“People’s feet are often especially sensitive to the cold and wet,” says David, “because when you are on the move, your mobility is a matter of life and death.”
And this is where “Socks and Stuff” plays a role. Basic foot care is one of the biggest regular needs the Red Cross fills by distributing fresh socks. Since people on the street don’t usually have access to laundry facilities, new socks are a lifeline. Foot care is so important the Red Cross often organizes foot care specialists to accompany the teams, to help people get some level of basic care where possible. The American Cathedral thus invites expats across the city to participate in the Fall “Socks and Stuff Drive”.
Through Sunday October 29th, we will be collecting:
- NEW adult size socks
- NEW adult size underwear
- sleeping bags
It is important socks and underwear be new. The drop off point is at the Cathedral’s front desk at 23, avenue George V, Paris 75008. They are open from 9- 5 pm week days, and during regular Sunday services (see times here).
Find out more about the work of the Red Cross in the 17th arrondissement here. The "Socks and Stuff" fall Drive is organised by the Mission & Outreach Committee. To get involved in other similar projects, contact Tony Holmes, email@example.com.