An experience that makes us grow

An experience that makes us grow

After experiencing the camps and hotel accommodations but also for six months lodging with a private individual thanks to the Pierre Clavel association, Youssouf, 25 years old from Kapisa in Afghanistan, joined ELAN several months ago. For the past three weeks, he has been staying with Michèle and Claude in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.

Youssouf, how did you hear about ELAN?
: By the Prefecture. I was staying in a hotel in Fontainebleau after an evacuation in Stalingrad, which was far away. I had been in Paris for almost a year and for the past six months I had been taking French lessons at the Pierre Clavel association, which had found me accommodation with a teacher. The hosting contract was for six months. That's how I ended up in Stalingrad. But I kept taking classes. The association is located in the 7th arrondissement. I asked to change hotels and they found me a hotel in Montreuil. That's at that moment I was told about private accommodation.

And you Claude, how did you get involved with refugees?

Claude: my wife and I are sensitive to the events that have affected Syria. We had stayed in this country before the war and enjoyed the melting pot of cultures, religions, and people's hospitality. We wanted to help. But it is not easy to take action. We had been thinking about it for more than a year when we learned about the possibility of hosting a refugee at home on the Paris diocese's website. I sent an email, I was told to contact the ELAN team of the Samusocial de Paris.

Were you apprehensive?
: You don't welcome into your home someone you don't know without some apprehension about how will take place the cohabitation. But knowing that the ELAN team was trying to find a person with whom we can get on was reassuring. Even if you don't choose the person, fortunately they make sure there is compatibility. My wife had expressed only one reservation: not to have to change her habits, or more precisely that the person had a vision of the woman compatible with ours. She's a committed feminist. She did not intend to make a compromise on this subject.

After three weeks, what are your first impressions?
: I have the impression that Youssouf has been with us for months. He integrated right away. He's playing with my 11-year-old daughter. Yesterday he went out for a drink on the terrace with my older daughter and her companion. He is perfectly autonomous. He obviously has his keys, his room. When he arrived and I showed him his room, I immediately told him that he could remove whatever was bothering him. He simply removed one or two icons.

Food is probably the most complex subject. Of course, we take care to respect its traditions. We're used to differences, my wife being a vegetarian. Youssouf is not offered food that would not suit his beliefs. It even has its own fridge. But there is a cultural divide.
Youssouf: French cuisine is very different from Afghan cuisine. Here, you often eat raw or cooked with water. In our house, everything is cooked in oil.
Claude: Youssouf, on the other hand, loves bread very much. Every night, he brings back a baguette. As for meals, we have never been very formal in the family. Sometimes we eat together; sometimes each makes his own meal. Youssouf made us a meal recently. I am very curious about the culinary specialities that come from elsewhere. I think we will gradually discover Afghan cooking.

Are you talking about your experience around you?

Claude: Yes. I was in a period of questioning. I was wondering about the meaning of existence, how I was contributing to society. I am convinced that this experience is good. It's a real meeting. Ten years ago my wife and I helped a Bolivian who had been our guide on a trip to Bolivia. We hosted him for a while. And we've always heard from him. It's still early to find out, but I think we'll always keep in touch with Youssouf.
Youssouf: I'm very lucky. When I told a friend of mine, who was staying in a hostel about the house, he didn't believe it. He wanted me to take pictures. I am happy to live in a family, to be able to exchange, I feel at home. I'm all right.

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Translated by Awa Ndiaye


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