If you are in the popular Sarlat market in the Dordogne this month, you may come across a cake stall with a difference. It is run by a group of 12 and 13-year-old British girls who selling home-baked English and French specialities to raise money for the association Hôpital Sourire. It aims to make life more bearable for children undergoing treatment for cancer and severe burns in hospital in Toulouse.
The girls are all pupils at Downe House school in Veyrines-de-Domme, Dordogne, which is part of an independent girl’s school of the same name near Newbury in the UK. They spend a term in France to learn about a new culture and improve their language skills as the majority of lessons are held in French. At the same time, they take part in a number of fund-raising initiatives for Hôpital Sourire.
Headmistress Deb Scotland said that for the past 10 years, they have raised about €3,500 a year: “Our link to Hôpital Sourire began when a now ex-teacher’s grandchild was treated at the hospital in Toulouse. The work we do is very much in keeping with the fundamental ethos of our parent school in the UK.
“The charity work is very important because it means the girls give something back to the community where they have had such a good time. They are amazing the way they throw themselves into it. They also put on a play for a primary school in St Cyprien, so they hear a lot of French and make enormous progress.”
The girls are enthusiastic about their fundraising and among their projects are a spa day, they sponsor the Head to bring them individually ordered breakfast in bed on a Sunday, have dressing-up days and even a crazy hair day.
As a regular feature every term, they make cakes to sell at Sarlat Market. Annabel, Yasmine, Susie, Amelia, Ashley, Chiara, Sukhmani, and Danna were there with their maths and French teacher Hélèna Riouall enthusiastically practising their French on passing customers when Connexion met them and sales were going well.
“It’s fun, really beau, trop cool”, they said. “It’s weird to see the things we’ve made actually on sale.” They make both French cakes such as Paris-Brest, palets bretons, the Brittany, buttery speciality kouign amann and British classics such as millioniare’s shortbread and muffins. Every euro goes to Hôpital Sourire.
“We have very close links with the association”, says Mrs Scotland. “Unfortunately we cannot visit the children in the hospital, because of the nature of their treatments, but we plan to produce either a newsletter or a short film so the girls can explain how we raise money for the charity. The children who might benefit from the funds can get a sense of who the girls from Downe House are. Currently, the President and members of the committee visit us once a year and they invite the girls to spend a day at Park Walibi in Agen every September.”
A new team of girls from Downe House will be selling their cakes in Sarlat market on Saturday, May 6.