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French handyman offers home renovations to people in need

The builder wants to help people in south-west France who are unable to afford essential renovation work, and he has plans to expand to the rest of the country

Claude Audouard, left, recently converted an attic alongside a team of 10 volunteers to give a single mother her own bedroom Pic: Claude Audouard

A builder has been assembling volunteers to undertake renovation projects for people who are unable to afford them, and he now has the whole country in his sights. 

Self-employed handyman Claude Audouard, 45, who lives in Corrèze, came up with the idea towards the end of last year. 

“I wanted to help people and thought about what I know how to do – building. 

“So I had the idea to help a family in need with their building work, not just to make the house look nicer, of course, but necessary work.” 

In November, he created the Facebook page Bricoleur du Coeur, invited people with urgent building needs to get in touch, and called on volunteers to help with the project. 

Names drawn from a hat

After drawing names from a hat, he settled on helping a single mother who was living in a three-bedroom house, with each of the bedrooms occupied by her three children. 

“She slept on a sofa under the stairs for seven years.” 

In four days, spread over two weekends, Mr Audouard and his team of 10 volunteers converted the family’s attic into a fourth bedroom, partly using materials donated by local businesses. 

“We had business-owners, and also volunteers who were not at all DIY experts, come and help us. 

“All help is welcome: we need experts and we need workers.” 

A business offered to provide and install a Velux window, while other volunteers fitted the insulation and plasterboard. 

Mr Audouard estimates the family saved €4,000 to €5,000 – the window alone was worth €1,300, even before it was installed – while the work would ordinarily have taken two weeks. 

Read more: Explained: How to apply for a renovation grant for your French home

Following the success of this first project, he transformed Bricoleurs du Cœur into an association, and they are already planning to begin work on a second site, in Meymac. 

“The mother works 20 hours a week and so has a small income, the father is physically unable to work, and they have a child who is disabled. 

Two years living without heating

“They have spent the last two years living without heating, and their house is starting to pose a health risk since there is no heating and little ventilation. 

“We have got materials through donations, such as a shower cubicle, a mechanical ventilation system, and a wood-burning stove, with external pipes for the smoke.” 

With the growing popularity of the scheme, the association is having to prioritise who it helps according to greatest need. 

“I realised quite a few people were trying to take advantage, just because they no longer liked the colour of their kitchen walls, which I don’t consider to be urgent.” 

He said he has been surprised by the hundreds of people in difficult situations who have got in touch. 

“We have one person who contacted us whose car was in a head-on collision with somebody who was trying to commit suicide. 

Today, they are disabled, and have to climb the stairs on their bottom. 

‘We can’t help everyone’

The problem is, we can’t help everyone.” 

Mr Audouard has already been contacted by willing volunteers outside the department and, although his business and six children keep him incredibly busy, he has big ambitions for the association. 

“I’m going to delegate regional representatives who will be able to oversee work sites in their region. 

The goal is to develop the system across the whole of France.” 

People interested in helping out can message him via the Bricoleur du Coeur Facebook page. 

Three ways to contribute

There are three ways to contribute: by donating to their crowdfunding campaign on Leetchi [to pay for material] (they raised €150 this way the first time); by volunteering; or by supplying materials. 

“What we’re really lacking is donated materials. 

“If we could have partnerships with DIY chains, it would make it much easier for us, because we have plenty of volunteers.” 

That said, he is always looking for motivated volunteers who want to make a difference, including those who want to open a branch of the association in a new part of France. 

“If everybody makes a small contribution, together we can achieve great things.”

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