Volunteer work in Bordeaux
Julia Angeles (Middlebury College)
Academic Year 2013-14
This year, I volunteered once a week for three hours with the Bordeaux chapter of the Blouses Roses, a non-profit organization named after their volunteers, men and women in magenta smocks who work to “provide smiles” to hospital patients and retirement home residents. Every Thursday morning, three Blouses Roses and I did arts and crafts with outpatients and their families at Bordeaux’s children’s hospital, as well as decorated the waiting room on our floor. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, both linguistically and culturally. I’m not the most artistically inclined myself, but the crafts were easy to learn with the help of the Blouses. Indeed, the women on my team were all extremely friendly and patient—and all spoke an impeccable French, which pushed me to do the same. Finally, it was rewarding to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they finished a project, and to be able to help them take their minds off their reasons for being at the hospital that day, if only for a moment. I would definitely recommend this experience!
Volunteer work in Paris
This year, a representative of the Centre du Volontariat de Paris came to the Madeleine Center to present the various volunteer opportunities that are available in Paris. This center, which has offices in different neighborhoods in Paris, helps individuals choose the activity that best fits the person's tastes and capabilities.
Following a first presentation, to which all of our students came, four Middlebury students were interviewed. Two of our students volunteered as English tutors. Here is what they said about their experiences:
"I would recommend this opportunity to anyone looking to exercise independence in tutoring. The students I met were curious and enthusiastic about learning. There were at most three who needed help with their English homework each week, which gave me the chance to get to know each of them. For me, this was a way of practicing my spoken French with younger people, and helped familiarize me with informal language and the French education system. I found it particularly interesting to address students' fascination-horror vis-à-vis American culture (especially after they'd seen "Bowling for Columbine"), given my position as a non-American studying in the U.S."
"In this case I was to help 6th and 7th graders with their homework: 'soutien scolaire.' Mostly it involved keeping the kids in their seats and doing their work. This work was the most fulfilling to me because it gave me the opportunity to see another side of Paris and to get to know these kids as well as to help them learn to study and hopefully have an impact on their lives. Working with the other volunteers was also a good experience to learn from them. Laure François, the head of the program, was also great to work with."
Many of our students, both graduates and undergraduates, get involved in teaching assistantships (in English) in Paris écoles maternelle, primaires, collèges et lycées. The students in general enjoy their experience of "English Assistants" in elementary, and secondary schools. Some of them even become friends with their professors and therefore establish personal contacts outside the school.
Evaluations from former students
"My stage bénévole in the BAC +1 / +2 class of Mme. Hartmann was an enjoyable experience. Each week, I facilitated a discussion section in English, often with the help of another Middlebury student. Our discussions were intended to revolve around a news article in English chosen by us, the instructors, but frequently our discussions dealt with a variety of other topics (life in the United States, life in the home countries of the students, music, movies, etc.). Several times we arranged activities outside of class, which further encouraged the students to be open with us."
"My volunteer experience with Mrs. Hartman and her students is well-worth the 2 hours a week of my time here in France. It is a group of students who are preparing for tests to enter the universities and "grandes écoles" and they spend some time each week learning English grammar. When I arrive, the students often offer me coffee and biscuits and we talk during this break in between classes. Each student presents a report on an article in English and I also bring an article in English for them to read. I help them with their English pronunciation. However, I always seem to learn new French vocabulary myself each time I come when we translate between the languages in order to clarify ideas in the articles we read. It is an enriching experience for everybody because they can understand an American's perspective on current events while I have the opportunity to understand their French perspective on the same topic."