Franco-British group’s century of care

The Foundation was set up 100 years ago in 1919

A foundation that looks after 850 people with various disabilities is celebrating its centenary and its long history of Franco-British co-operation.

The Foundation began by helping French soldiers during World War One. It now has nine training and care centres in Essonne, Ile-de-France, and two in Brittany.

Vice-president and retired colonel Geoffrey Cardozo said he is proud that, 100 years on, it continues to help disabled people and is still growing.

He said: “We, The Foundation, do no more than try, tirelessly with passion and pragmatism, to meet the needs of handicapped people, to improve their care, skills, well-being and reinsertion into a society which is theirs as much as it is ours.”

The Foundation began in Knightsbridge, London, as the British Committee of the French Red Cross to coordinate assistance to French soldiers injured on the Western Front.

Teams of nurses, surgeons and volunteer ambulance drivers crossed the Channel and helped care for wounded soldiers in hospitals throughout France.

Committee members were British and French and funds came from English and Scottish donors.

At the end of the war the Committee still had substantial funds. In 1919, it bought the château of Sillery at Epinay-sur-Orge on the southern outskirts of Paris and turned it into a convalescent centre for wounded soldiers, many of whom were victims of a TB epidemic.

They called themselves the Franco-British Colony for Convalescents.

During World War Two, the centre was cut off from UK funding, but continued to provide what help it could and hid Jewish young people within its walls.

By the 1960s there were few soldiers left and the centre’s main aim was to provide vocational training in agriculture, horticulture, woodwork and metalwork for able-bodied young people from a dysfunctional background.

Now it has 300 qualified employees helping young people with mental and physical disabilities to complete apprenticeships and find a job.

There are permanent places for those who are unable to leave. They work in the centre’s workshops, taking part in activities such as food-packaging, laundry, horticulture and landscaping.

In 2014, the Association was renamed the Fondation Franco-Britannique de Sillery (ffbs-sillery.com). It is registered as a French charity and the state pays a day rate for each young person.

Today, disabled young people benefit from support of The Foundation, which was set up 100 years ago to care for French soldiers who had been wounded on the Western Front during WWI

Donations from private individuals and corporations are used for projects which are not covered by French public funding, such as the maintenance and IT.

Both French and British people sit on the Foundation’s board and its patron is the British ambassador in France.

This active charity continues to be a very good example of an enduring partnership between France and Britain to work together to help others. 

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