A Parisian restaurant hidden in the “bad” part of town has a mission to combat food waste by serving creative, market-fresh cuisine...for the cost of a movie ticket.
American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:
Read more about the Secrets of Paris here
Through February 27
The 100% Packaging-Free Organic Pop-Up store by BioCoop, originally just slated to run through COP21, has been such a success that it's not extended through the end of February. There are over 250 itiems available in bulk, including produce, fresh bread, dairy (butter, yogurt and cheese), fresh ground coffee, nut butters, and other items, 20% from local sources. If you don't bring your own reusable glass jars and other containers you can buy them at the shop. At 14 rue du Châteu d'Eau, 10th, open 10am-8pm Mon-Sat.
December 1 - January 31
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is COP21, so expect to see an eco-friendly decor.
Through February 28
Bartabas' Zingaro shows combine equestrian theatre, dance, world music, poetry and many other disciplines. After having pounded the ground of his Théâtre Equestre Zingaro for more than a quarter of a century, Bartabas is now tackling the skies with his new show "They shoot angels, don't they? (elegies)". Get your tickets €42-50 at FNAC.
A Parisian restaurant hidden in the “bad” part of town has a mission to combat food waste by serving creative, market-fresh cuisine...for the cost of a movie ticket.
Hint: none of them are wearing a cowboy hat.
Yep, they’re all heroes except that goofy one in the running outfit. That’s me at my first marathon in 2012. I'm not a hero. I'm just an average, concerned citizen who wants to help end suffering where I can. Running marathons is a silly hobby when you think about it (especially considering how slow I run). We're a bunch of health fanatics paying for the privilege of inflicting pain on ourselves, then being publicly rewarded for it. After three years of running for my own entertainment, I’ve decided to try and put all of this restless energy to good use.
I’m running it because the real heroes are too busy saving lives to run through the streets of Paris being cheered on by adoring crowds. I’m running it because the heroes at MSF – many who put their own lives in danger just to go to work – don’t get a triumphant photo finish and a medal at the end of their day. I’m running because I'm hoping that if I donate my time and energy (and knees) spreading the word about MSF’s important work, it will inspire enough people to help make a small difference. Please consider supporting MSF, whether by donating to my campaign (deadline February 26), directly to MSF, or simply by spreading the word and sharing this with others. Merci!
To read more about the amazing work MSF does around the world, just have a scroll through the MSF Twitter feed, or this powerful collection of MSF images from 2015: “Photographers, both staff and commissioned freelancers, accompanied our medical teams as they responded to death and destruction on an unprecedented scale in Syria, natural disasters in Nepal and Malawi, to the refugee crisis in Europe, the end of Ebola in West Africa, and to provide care for civilians caught up in Yemen’s war, amongst many other emergencies.”
Running through Bercy Park one day this fall I saw the Cooltainer, a shipping container covered in wooden slats parked across from the Cinémathèque. I stopped to read the little info panels and thought Agricool was some sort of fruit food truck, but seeing no opening hours listed, I took a photo to remind me to Google it back home, and continued my run.
“Beans from New Zealand, strawberries from Spain, Tomatoes from Morocco. Fruits and vegetables travel more than you. But unlike you, they don't enjoy it.” - Agricool.co
According to the website, Agricool was created by two sons of French farmers, Guillaume and Gonzagues, to grow fresh strawberries in a recycled shipping container (aka Le Cooltainer). Not only would they be pesticide-free, grown locally and inexpensively, the intensive production methods would allow them to grow as many strawberries in just 30m² as you could produce on a farm. The idea sounded great, but to get these strawberries there was a waiting list. I sign up and get an email saying I'm #148.
By chance, I got to see Guillaume speak at Végétalisons Paris, a conference sponsored by the Mairie de Paris. I learn a bit more but still had questions, and being the nosey journalist I am, I want to see these strawberries. I ask him for an interview and a peek at his Cooltainer. I may have been hoping for some fresh December strawberries, too.
Every December in France you'll see the French firemen, or pompiers, selling their annual calendar to raise money for their non-profit association, ADOSSPP (Association pour le développement des œuvres sociales des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), which provides assistance to injured fire fighters, as well as their families in case of death. As the French fire fighters are part of the French military, the calendars are rather...professional. You will see images of the fire fighters at work, putting out the flames, saving lives, in training exercises, etc.
I've seen two different covers, not sure if they're the same inside.
I like to follow the Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris on Facebook because they always post photos and videos of their work. I should warn you the remains of burn-out houses and apartments are depressing, but you also get some pretty cool stuff, like this amazing rescue of an injured tourist in the dome at Sacré Coeur Basilica and needed to be taken out through the windows in a stretcher. You can watch one of their training videos to see what kind of physical strength and endurance is required of all fire fighters (note: they're not all firemen; women make up 8% of the French fire brigade, or about 14,000 total).
If you would like your own 2016 Calendrier des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris, and you haven't run into any firemen selling them at the market, you can simply stop by any caserne in Paris to buy them direct. Here is a map of all of the fire stations in Paris and immediate suburbs.
It should be said that the French buy these calendars to support the fire fighters, not because they're very interesting calendars. Or rather, not very exciting. But now there is a new calendar by Pompiers sans Frontiers (Fire Fighters without Borders), a French NGO that responds to humanitarian crises around the world as well as working with at-risk and vulnerable populations in France. To raise money and awareness for their work, they have come out with a très chaud calendar featuring the sexiest firemen photographed by Fred Goudon and published by Flammarion.
If you’re in Paris during the holidays, far from your family, no reason to feel sorry for yourself. Take advantage of your lack of “family obligations” and help out those in need in your adopted community. If there are any I have missed please let me know!
There are a few charitable associations who need extra help over the holidays. And of course, if you don’t have the time, your tax-deductible donations are always welcome, and I also list holiday markets benefitting local charities so you can shop for gifts while helping these charities:
1. Secours Populaire
Le Secours Populaire needs help at their gift-wrapping stations at FNAC Italie 11 (13th) and FNAC St-Lazare (9th), where volunteers wrap gifts in return for donations. There is a chart to fill out with your availability by the day and hour, for wrapping at least two hours daily 10am-8pm, through December 31st.
The Secours Populaire will be collecting new toys from December 8-10 for “Operation 3000 jouets = 3000 sourires”, at 11 collection kiosks around Paris (including one at 12 Place de la Bastille from 5-8pm on Tues and Thurs, and 2-5pm on Fri).
2. Les Petits Frères des Pauvres
Les Petits Frères des Pauvres needs volunteers for the 24th and 25th December to accompany the elderly to and from a community Christmas dinner and also to help prepare and serve the holiday meals and deliver Christmas packages. There are two contact links on this page, one for North Paris and one for South Paris.
3. The Salvation Army
The Armée du Salut needs volunteers to help with the holiday dinner celebrations on the 24th and 31st, as well as gift wrapping, gift delivery and other holiday preparations.
UNICEF is urgently looking for volunteers to help sell their holiday cards at stands around Paris and the rest of France. You can register on their website or attend the next volunteer info session in Paris December 10th at 2:30pm (info on the website).
You can also help UNICEF by simply purchasing their holiday gifts, calendars and cards at their Boutique Solidaire, online and in two Paris locations: 7 rue St-Lazare, 9th, M° Notre-Dame-de-Lorette; and 15 rue de Rémusat, 16th, M° Mirabeau
5. Restos du Coeur
The Restos du Coeur are food distribution centers that need long-term volunteers and donations.
6. La Banque Alimentaire
La Banque Alimentaire is also a food bank that needs long-term volunteers and donations.
7. Les Apprentis d'Auteuil
The Apprentis d’Auteuil help at-risk youth, always in need of volunteers for long-term projects.
8. Society for the Protection of Animals
Established in 1845, the Société de Protection des Animaux (SPA) just celebrated its 170th anniversary on December 2nd. They always needs donations, but they also need volunteers to help out at their shelters throughout France (the one in Paris is at 39 boulevard Berthier, 17th, where they are looking for full-time volunteers to manage the adoption office). Even if you just have time to come and walk, pet and give attention to the dogs and cats, it's much appreciated. And of course, if you're looking to adopt a pet, think of those which are abandoned or rescued from illegal puppy mills (which usually end up being sold at pet shops). Another site for pet adoption in France is Second Chance.
You can support the SPA by shopping for holiday gifts in their online Boutique Solidaire.
Oxfam needs volunteers for their two shops in Paris, in the 11th and 14th, apply online or in the shop.
You can also shop at the Oxfam bookstores in France at 61 rue Daguerre, 14th and 8 rue St-Amboise, 11th. They collect and sell books, CDs, and DVDs in French and English. There will be a special holiday sale on December 16th and 17th, see the Facebook page for more info.
10. Red Cross
The Croix Rouge not only regularly recruits volunteers and staff in France and abroad (“Je M’Engage”), they also offer regular training weekends in First Aid/CPR (Formation aux premiers secours) throughout France.
Emmaüs Paris always needs volunteers for help at their charity shops around Paris and the suburbs.
Shop at or donate items to the Emmaüs Thrift stores in and around Paris. There is a special Exceptional Opening on December 13th at 105 rue de Clignancourt, 10am-1pm.
For other volunteer opportunities searchable by theme, location, or skill, check out these excellent websites:
http://www.benenova.fr (check the Calendar for seasonal needs)
For specific information on helping the refugees in France read this article:
Winter is Coming: How Parisians are Helping the Refugees (and so can you!)
For those who speak no French
Your best bet for finding volunteer opportunities without speaking French is probably to contact Serve the City Paris, the American Church or the American Cathedral (specifically, they do an annual Love in a Box project). Looking ahead in January and February, the SOS Helpline in English is looking for volunteers. “Interested fluent-English speakers are invited to come along to ONE information session on EITHER 21 January, 27 January, or 3rd February to meet us and find out more about the organization.” Visit the website for more details. There are no other English-language groups in Paris that I know of who do regular aid work. If anyone knows of any, let me know!
Soup Kitchens in Paris
Here is the Mairie de Paris’ list of food distribution points in Paris for those in need, with hours and addresses.
** Updated September 17th after the transfer of the refugees at Austerlitz and La Mairie du 18ème to different shelters in and around Paris.
International news sites have been endlessly looping news about the plight of the refugees fleeing their home countries for what they thought would be safer shores in Europe. Unfortunately most of what is being reported is saddening, whether it's about those who died making the journey in leaky boats or airless trucks, or about the ugliness of hate groups such as the Front National in France trying to demonize them as “clandestins” (despite the fact that they are war refugees, not “economic migrants” (French article).
But Parisians refuse to let Marine Le Pen speak for them, and are acting collectively and independently to welcoming the refugees with assistance, compassion, and public demonstrations of support.
Visitors to France may only know about the refugees in Calais who are trying to make their way to England. But not everyone is just passing through France. Several hundreds settled in tent camps around Paris, most noticeably (for tourists) along the Left Bank of the Seine on the Quai d'Austerlitz, in the 13th. This is close to my neighborhood, and I run regularly along the banks of the Seine, so I watched as their numbers grew over the summer (see the excellent photo documentary by Mauricio Alvarez, Invisibles).
Some of the tents on the Quai d'Austerlitz were right below the trendy Wanderlust bar.
In Paris, the local authorities have been working to find temporary housing for refugees while their paperwork is being processed so they can have the legal right to seek jobs and permanent housing. In France, those without passports or visas are called "sans papiers" (or Without Papers), not "illegal aliens". While they are waiting for their asylum requests to be processed, they are not allowed to work and must rely on the State and charitable organizations for everything including food, housing, and medical assistance.
Volunteers teaching French to refugees in the Austerlitz camp.
Unable to stand by doing nothing while politicians and commentators debate the “issues”, Parisians have decided to take matters into their own hands by helping refugees themselves, either independently or through local charities. In an unprecedented show of solidarity they are bringing them food, clothing, medical supplies, sleeping bags, tents, and anything else they can offer, including simply sitting with the refugees over coffee and croissants to listen to their stories. Their outpouring of support is inspiring.
On September 17th the refugees from the Austerlitz camp as well as the refugees gathered in front of the Mairie du 18èmem (Town Hall of the 18th district) were transferred on busses by aid workers to almost two dozen different shelters in and around Paris as a temporary mensure while their paperwork is being processed. But they are still in need of everyday necessities, metro tickets, winter coats and shoes, and food.
The French press has published several articles about the local efforts, listing resources for those who want to join in helping out the refugees either on their own or through local charity organizations in need of extra hands. I’ve attempted to compile these all into one list with descriptions in English to make it easier to navigate the different options available for helping the refugees in Paris. I will be updating it as I get more information, so please don’t hesitate to contribute anything I may have missed in the comments section below.
The four main ways to help the refugees:
- Volunteer “Devenir Bénévole”: there are many options for volunteers to help out depending on your skills and availability: food and clothing distribution; translation; accompanying for legal, medical or administrative meetings; host cultural outings or social events; language lessons; etc. See the list below for volunteer opportunities.
- Donate Necessities “Un Don en Nature”: aside from clothing, shoes, bedding, and hygiene products, many temporary shelters have lists of necessities such as cleaning products, cooking supplies, stationary and pens, calling cards, metro passes, etc. Many of the charities and action committees listed below post regular updates to what is most needed (this week it’s rain gear and plastic tarps), and where and when to deliver it.
- Financial Contributions “Faire un Don”: All of the local charitable organizations listed below are collecting funds specifically to help the refugees in Paris and throughout France, which are tax deductible for French residents.
- Offer a Bed: The first two organizations listed below (Singa and JRS) help bring together refugees who need short-term housing with locals who are willing to share a spare room or sofa bed. These are carefully coordinated and monitored to foster cultural understanding and support for refugees who benefit from real contact with compassionate locals.
Singa is a French NGO (non-governmental organization) that aims to integrate refugees into French society (language, customs, administration, etc), helping them find jobs or create their own businesses. They also work to create real connections between the refugees and the locals, to overcome the exclusion and discrimination many face. Their new program called CALM, which stands for Comme à la Maison (“Just Like Home”), is a sort of Airbnb bringing together refugees and hosts willing to open up their extra room or sofa bed for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of six months. More than just housing, the group aims to foster cross-cultural understanding, and offers daily support for the hosts and guests. The program is funded by private donors and a technology and innovation grant from the UN High Commission for Refugees. Read more about them in this English article from France 24. If your French isn’t very strong, don’t hesitate to send them a message in English (or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service): is looking for individual or families willing offer their hospitality for their Welcome in France service, hosting a refugee in their home for a family meal, for a night, or for a short vacation. Hosts in Ile-de-France are especially needed for the asylum-seekers living outside Paris who have to come up by train for the day of their asylum interview at the Prefecture. They also accept financial donations.
Autremonde: This Association Jeunesse de Solidarité works directly with migrants and refugees in need of support. They need financial donations and volunteers. Every Tuesday night at 7pm they welcome prospective volunteers for an info session at Café dans la Mare (30 rue de la Mare, 20th). Their Facebook page is updated more than their website.
Emmaüs Solidarité: One of the largest charity groups in France has thrift stores and collection points around Paris for donations of clothing, linens, dishes, toys, furniture and small items, as well as a constant need for financial assistance and volunteers for short or long-term missions (helping receive and sort the donations for the refugees is the current biggest need). From September through December Emmaüs trucks will be picking up donations at special collection points all over Paris (click on the dates to see the location and what’s accepted).
Croix Rouge: The French Red Cross is often the first aid agency in France on the ground welcoming the refugees, including the 1000 refugees transferred to Paris from Germany this week. You can help with financial donations specifically for the refugees, or volunteer for one of their many diverse missions (first aid, distribution, communications, translations, etc) either short-term or long-term (speaking French necessary).
Secours Populaire Français: Another large French charity organization with over 1400 welcome centers to help the poor and disenfranchised in France, the Secours Populaire is accepting financial donations (a pop-up for the refugees opens on the home page) as well as volunteers for local missions according to your skills and availability (minimum French needed to fill out the application).
France Terre d’Asile is a non-profit charity that works to assist refugees and asylum seekers in France, particularly helping navigate the legal and administrative maze of obtaining residency status. In addition to financial donations, they urgently need volunteers who can translate or interpret for the following languages into French: arabe, farsi, roumain, chinois, turque, russe, ourdou, vietnamien, albanais, portugais, soninké, bambara, tamoul, bulgare, amharique, somalien.
Droit au Logement: A non-profit that lobbies for housing for everyone, including homeless, evicted and refugees in need. They are in need of financial support, and regularly organize support marches and concerts in Paris.
Rechauffons Corps & Coeurs: I wrote about this young group of suburban teens in the Secrets of Paris Newsletter #151. They welcome donations of funds, food and/or volunteers for their weekly food deliveries (they are based in the Vitry suburbs of Paris, but have gone to Calais and regularly go to the Austerlitz camp). The least “formal” and probably the most accessible (although I don’t know how good their English is), call (07 81 94 97 16) or email (email@example.com) if you want to lend a hand.
Revivre is a charity created in 2012 specifically to welcome and assist Syrian refugees. They are always in need of funds and volunteers (they also host social events like a Franco-Syrian picnic this Sunday).
Entraides Citoyennes is collecting clothing, sleeping bags, and hygiene supplies.
Médecins du Monde: “Doctors of the World” works on all five continents in different contexts (internal violence zones, conflict areas, medical deserts, natural disasters, etc.) and around 4 priority themes (health and migrants, sexual and reproductive health, AIDS and harm reduction, crisis and conflict). They accept financial donations.
UNICEF France: This international organization helping children and refugees accepts financial donations and volunteers (regular info meetings for UNICEF Paris volunteer opportunities are listed here). They also have a boutique near Gare St-Lazare selling their greeting cards and other items for charity.
Un Coeur Pour la Syrie France: This non-profit charity works directly with Syrian refugees around France. They accept financial donations and have a “boutique solidaire” of items benefitting the refugees (many hand-made by refugees themselves). They’re hosting a social event on October 2nd in Paris, listed on their Facebook page.
This weekend (September 12-13) is also the Fête des Associations, where the non-profit and charitable associations will have stands at their local arrondissement where residents can find information about what they do and the volunteer opportunities available (find your district’s local festival here).
Each arrondissement’s Mairie (Town Hall) will have a “Collection Solidaire” space to collect items needed by the refugees (lists of what they need will be posted online at Paris.fr sometime this month.
If you want to help out at the different shelters or donate items, there are several Facebook sites set up by volunteers from refugee sites in and around around Paris (with some bi-lingual ressources) that post daily updates about what is most needed in each location. They are not charity organizations, simply “spokes people” for the refugees and/or lobbying groups who also post the latest news on the living conditions and the government’s actions (or lack thereof).
Note that even though these shelters all provide a roof over their heads, in many cases that's all they have: some of the shelters have no beds or any furniture at all, some have no bathing facilities or heat. Some are so far outside Paris that the refugees will need to take the RER into Paris for their interviews at the Prefecture, so metro tickets and volunteers who can accompany them around the city's maze of public transport are welcome.
Refugiés en Lutte (French-English): this FB group attempts to consolidate all of the information concerning the refugees in Paris, including an open Google Doc Housing Centers in Paris Region (Page 2 is in English) listing all 13 known shelters, how many refugees are in them, what they need, and what services are being provided by charities. The group also has a Refugiés en Lutte (website (French only) news blog with photos and links to latest news on the refugees.
Other FB groups:
- Solidarité Jules Joffrin (French only) group run by students for the refugees who were in front of the Mairie du 18ème.
- Solidarité avec les migrants du quai d'Austerlitz (French only)
- Comité de soutien des Migrants de la Chapelle (French Only)
- Réfugiés de La Chapelle en Lutte (French Only)
- Réfugiés d'Austerlitz en Lutte (French Only)
- La Maison des Refugiés (the shelter at the Lycée Jean Quarré, Paris 19th, list of needs below)
Je m’Engage: Most charitable organizations expect a minimum of one year commitment from volunteers (because training is an investment of time and resources), but the French website Je m’Engage allows you to search for “missions” by location and date, from several days to a year (and this is the link specifically for helping the refugees: http://bit.ly/1K1twtK) . The most urgent needs are to help process donations and accompanying the newly-sheltered refugees on their trips to the doctor, prefecture, etc (for all of you expats out there, we’ve been through this ourselves and know how much it sucks when you have no clue what’s going on, so we’re particularly qualified to help).
Aidons Les Réfugié(e)s: A French website bringing together all of the options for helping refugees, where you can join an organized action or propose your own initiative.
Le Libération news site has a compiled a map of more organizations that need volunteers and donations throughout France, searchable by need (food, housing, teachers, administrative/legal assistance, welcome services): http://www.liberation.fr/apps/2015/09/aide-aux-refugies/#/
This is an interesting first-person account from a French blogger (in French) who has been dropping off donations to the school house shelter in the 19th, with advice on how to do the same yourself in the most efficient manner: http://lajournaliste.over-blog.com/2015/09/aider-les-refugies-comment.html
This is a working list, please help out by sending updates, corrections, additions or suggestions for improvement, merci!