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Army of volunteers meeting increasing social needs in France

Army of volunteers meeting increasing social needs in France

Army of volunteers meeting increasing social needs in France

Salvation Army volunteers on the streets of Paris, France, are reaching out to those experiencing homelessness.

The Salvation Army in France has experienced major changes over the years. In 1994, corps worship services were established and in 2000, Social Services became an integral part of ministry.

Major Dominique Glories is the Director of Volunteer Services and Search for Missing Persons for The Salvation Army France and Belgium Territory. He speaks with The Whole World Mobilising content producer Rebecca Flint about homelessness in Paris and what Salvationists can do to help.

RF: Tell us about your role at The Salvation Army.
DG: I was serving as the assistant to the Chief Secretary in Territorial headquarters and took over the role as head of the volunteer department in 2000. We have since experienced major growth in this area and have seen our volunteers grow from several hundred to over 3400.

RF: How do volunteers serve in The Salvation Army in France?
DG: Our volunteers mainly work in food distribution and making visits to maintain contact with isolated people. We also have volunteers like doctors in medicine, who offer their expertise to us when dealing with difficult situations. When we have special events, volunteers help out. This includes working in the corps where we try hard to bridge with our Social Services. We also send out our volunteers, at times, to help outside of the Army. Anyone is welcome to come and get involved. Among the 3400 volunteers, 2500 of those are from outside of the Army because our values resonate with them.

RF: From those 2500 unchurched volunteers, have any of them come to know Christ through their involvement?
DG: Although I don’t have stories of someone being saved, I do find that volunteers get in touch with us when they are going through tough times. They know I am a minister and so I try to keep in contact with them by inviting them to Army events and activities. We have seen many of our volunteers who were not committed to a corps, come and join one.

RF: What would a typical day look like for you?
DG: First of all, I come into the office and read all my emails to see how the distribution of food went the day before. Every day I have appointments with at least 2-3 people. My main role is to oversee the team that is preparing food to be distributed each night for between 400-500 people. As you can imagine, there are a lot of logistical matters to look after to prepare for this. My day also involves team meetings. We currently have four people on staff and two full-time volunteers.

We also have a shop where people can come and buy food on the bottom floor of the building. I check and make sure that the team that is responsible for that is okay. People come from outside through Social Services to buy food. People are referred to The Salvation Army shop where they pay only 10 per cent of what they would normally pay for the items.

RF: Tell me about homelessness in Paris. When I visited the city in October, I noticed a lot of women with young babies on the streets begging for money.
DG: Many of them come from the eastern part of Europe and have experienced domestic violence and other difficulties in their homes. Each morning we have a team that provides breakfast for them. We see around 70 to 90 individuals each day through this mobilisation. We also have a team that arrives at Territorial Headquarters at 6.30am. They prepare coffee, tea and food. They head out to the main streets of Paris to meet with these people. We give advice and assistance in securing help from the various services available to them.

RF: Are there many people that find housing and help to get off the streets?
DG: Yes, we do see people leaving the streets and finding permanent housing. For those who have been homeless for a short time, it is easier to receive help. But for those who have been homeless for 10 or more years, it is a little harder because they might have developed an addiction or suffer from a mental illness.

RF: What is your advice to other Salvationists who want to make a difference in their local communities?
DG: Don’t hesitate to do something! Regardless of how small you are. Even if it looks like nothing, it can make a difference in someone's life. Start somewhere!

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