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Association opens up social contact to newcomers to France

Vivre Ensemble en Minervois (VEEM) has a wide range of activities for its 300 members of 18 nationalities, with about 55% Britons and 25% French

Moulin Bénazeth in Villeneuve-Minervois, thirty minutes from Olonzac Pic: VEEM

Internationally diverse association VEEM is opening up social contact to newcomers to France.

President Noel Birchall said they were keen to reflect the international diversity in the area and bring people together with the local population of Olonzac, Hérault.

“We have many activities, including gardening, walking, creative writing, mahjong, cooking and birdwatching, and are always looking for ideas.

“We are surrounded by vines, so our wine appreciation group is popular. We take part in the grape harvest, visit vineyards and hold wine-tasting sessions.

“Language classes are one of our strengths, with more than half our members taking part.

“We are not a language school but take lessons seriously and have classes in French and English, from beginners upwards. There are also Spanish classes and we have offered German in the past.”

The group’s main objective is to help people when they come to the Minervois region, including the French who move from other parts of the country.

“We also give practical advice with administration issues and social contact,” said Mr Birchall. “Once people have joined, they tend to stay, as it is a friendly group.”

In normal times, there are numerous social activities, including picnics and barbecues, an annual omelette de Pâques at Easter, and a Burns Night supper.

“We are always looking to do things for the local community,” said Mr Birchall. “Our gardening group tends the museum’s grounds and we raise money for charity.

“We held a Zoom quiz for a refugee charity and to celebrate our 10th anniversary, and a Musique et Saveurs du Monde festival with street food from India and Africa as well as fish and chips, and international bands. It was fantastic and brought 1,500 people to Olonzac.”

VEEM is holding a stall at the Olonzac market on Tuesdays, August 31 and September 7.

Membership costs €20 a year, with language classes €15 a term.

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