Last year, Restos du Cœur supplied 132.5million meals to 926,000 people in 2,112 centres across France.
But it also carries out many other services that are less well known, such as temporary accommodation for the homeless, food vans on the streets, legal and financial advice and can even lend money to those who do not have access to the classic banking system. It gives French lessons and help with schoolwork, organises cinema trips and holidays for children whose families can’t afford one, and offers health advice and individual assistance to get people back into the work place.
The charity hopes to develop its mission to provide support to the jobless by giving one-to-one help while they are searching for work and this is where it needs more volunteers. It is looking for people who can help the unemployed draw up a CV, write cover letters, teach interview techniques and organise contacts with agencies such as Pôle Emploi and employers.
Restos du Coeur also has 102 workshops where long-term unemployed can learn a new skill, including 41 market gardens, nine kitchens and even a sewing workshop.
Around 2,000 people are helped in this way every year, and 52% have ended up with a job as a result.
Volunteers in all sectors are always welcome and not just in winter.
Spokesperson Clara Cohen said job centres were open all year round and there was a constant need for help. Three out of four of the food-distribution centres now also stay open in the summer.
Restos du Cœur is looking for all types of people and is hoping to attract younger helpers and employed people so it can vary the usual volunteer profile.
This month sees the charity’s annual star-studded show Les Enfoirés, which this year will be held in Toulouse on January 18-23. It is a major fund-raiser and supplies 11% of total funding. This is boosted as the live concert is followed by a keenly-awaited album, DVD and single shortly afterwards.
Go to www.restosducoeur.org/devenir-benevole if you are interested in volunteering.