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Helping all to feel included

New English-speaking members are being welcomed by an association that helps lonely elderly people and works to improve the environment.

Espoir Nature was set up in Hanc, Deux-Sèvres, in 2016 and has a growing number of projects, including an organic garden, where the elderly are invited to help.

Members visit older people in their homes and in retirement homes and produce a blog from their conversations.

They also go into schools to talk about the environment, and run training courses, which include French lessons.

Association president Laetitia Poulter said:  “We feel English speakers can become isolated if they can’t speak French.

“We have around 15 students and we are thrilled because many have agreed to help us find ways to raise money for our association and help us organise Christmas celebrations. The British seem to be very good at helping run charities.”

One of the students, Shirley Atkinson, told Connexion: “I and some other ladies will be getting together to have a brainstorming session to try and help with ideas for fundraising events. The association does a lot of interesting things and works so hard to help others, young and old.”

This year, their new project is to introduce farm animals into their centre, focusing on small ones, such as rabbits and miniature donkeys, which can be easily transported and taken to retirement homes for people who are not mobile.

Mrs Poulter said: “We live in a rural area, where there is an ageing population, and often these people are very lonely, especially if they still live in their home, far from a village, and their family have left to work in towns. There are many who are in retirement homes who have no friends left and no family to visit them.

“We have 16 volunteers and four employees and far more people to visit and activities to organise than we can fit in.”

New members could help in the garden, take part in visits, join in fundraising or lend a hand with publicity, for example.

Membership is €5 a year. Anyone interested can get in touch via .

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