Five good news articles from France including a great door idea

We also look at haircuts for the homeless and a Harry Potter-style Rentrée….Here are five good news stories to take you into the weekend

Good news: From street barbers, to 50 years of giving blood, to children welcomed back to school Harry Potter-style, and a door initiative to help elderly people feel more independent
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1. Retired French engineer gives blood 139 times

A retired engineer in France has given blood 139 times in 50 years, and has only stopped now because he has reached the upper age limit.

Jean-Paul Garnier has blood type A+, and was a regular donor at the Parthenay centre in Deux-Sèvres, Nouvelle-Aquitaine. This week, he gave his last donation, just before turning 71; the age limit for giving blood.

He told local newspaper Ouest France: “It has always been an altruistic gesture for me. The only time I wasn’t able to give is because I had just come back from certain trips abroad.”

Giving blood is not the only way Mr Garnier has been involved in the local community. He was also a local councillor, is a member of Gîtes de France, and also part of the Golf de Mazières association, as a keen golfer.

His wife Claude also regularly gives blood as do the couple’s children.

2. Company personalises doors for elderly

A company in France is making personalised doors to help elderly people find their apartments and bedrooms more easily in care homes.

The ‘Vivre chez soi (Live at home)’ initiative from social enterprise [R]éveil aims to brighten up the corridors of nursing homes and sheltered accommodation by offering vinyl coverings over typical doors.

This makes them more colourful and more personable and in many cases makes them appear more similar to a normal front door on a house.

This can help elderly people find their way back and recognise their own door, as well as remind them of good memories, improve their independence, and create a nicer environment for the residents and care workers.

The company prints all of its door coverings in France. People can choose a photo of their old front door, or choose from more than 200 options and styles.

The door coverings can incorporate patterns, artistic designs, and photos as well as a wide variety of photo-realistic door styles.

The vinyl is easy to stick down on a clean, straight door; is repositionable, and also leaves no damage when removed.

“Coming into care can be difficult for the resident and their family,” said Mickael Chaleuil, director of an Ehpad care home in Saint-Dominique. “We liked this idea because it lets our elderly people keep something from their lives [from before]. A familiar door can calm them and bring back good memories.”

“I have a fantastic photo on my door. It’s beautiful; magnificent,” said one elderly resident. “I want to show it to my grandson.”

A resident's former house (left), their room at the retirement home (center) and its new look (right) Pic: [R]eveil

Capucine, a nurse at the AP-HP hospital, said: “Spatial disorientation is a problem that we see a lot in the geriatric service. The similarity of spaces when they want to get back to their room can cause a lot of confusion and anxiety, even panic.

“Since we’ve stuck the images of the doors, patients know where they are better, and panic attacks are much rarer.”

3. NGO takes elderly on bike rides

Elderly or isolated people with mobility problems have been able to get outside and get active after an association based in La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime) began offering bicycle trips around town.

The ‘triporteurs’ (push bikes with seats attached to the front) can carry two people at once. A volunteer from the association A Vélo Sans Age rides the bike, and their passengers have a gentle journey

The trips are offered all year round, with large groups of cyclists taking journeys.

Simone Dupin, one of the older women who takes the trips, told France 3: “It’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike. I stopped [riding] at age 92.”

Association president Francis Bru said: “It’s not about getting from A to B. It’s a way to bring people together, people who want to tell us their memories, want to see the beach they haven’t seen for 15 years, or wanted to go back to the port because they used to work there…that’s why we wanted to transport people.”

The association is always looking for volunteers and donations and has 50 sites across the country.

4. Homeless people offered free haircuts

An association in Paris is offering homeless people and refugees free haircuts.

The Wilson Barbers, founded by Marion Collet in a refugee camp in the winter of 2018, has now become an official charity association. Its hair stylists work on the streets throughout the capital, offering professional haircuts to people who would otherwise not be able to afford them.

The sessions aim not only to cut people’s hair, but also offer a moment of wellbeing, improved self-esteem, and a chance for people to have someone kind to talk to.

The group came about after Ms Collet met her now-husband, Mohamed, in the refugee camp. She asked him what he wanted, and he said: “A clipper, because I’m a barber!” she told The idea for an on-site barber was born.

The association’s name comes from the camp on Avenue Wilson in La Plaine Saint-Denis. As well as giving haircuts, the group also offers training to young people and those who wish to get involved. It now has a list of 80 stylists, and spreads its message mainly through word of mouth and social media.

It also uses organic, made-in-France products, and receives donations from existing salons. The group is now set to open its own permanent salon in summer 2024. It will provide paying haircuts for four days a week, offer free cuts on two days, and continue to provide street haircuts.

Owner Ms Collet says that she wants the salon to be as inclusive as possible, and open to people of all genders and with all types of hair.

5. School pupils ‘sorted’ in Harry Potter style

A school in Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany) welcomed children back in the style of Harry Potter, with a teacher dressed as the magical wizard Dumbledore, and a ‘Sorting Hat’ placed on the children’s heads.

Children in CP (Year 2 in the UK system, the first year after Reception or Maternelle) at the Ecole Legatellois underwent the famous wizarding ritual in the school playground, with many wearing black ‘wizarding’ robes and clutching wands.

Moments after the Sorting Hat was placed on their heads (a reference to the hat in the bestselling books by J.K. Rowling), a teacher dressed as Dumbledore and holding a cauldron declared which class they would go into, with a wave of a wand and a tinkling ‘magic’ sound effect.

The pupils then gathered in their sorted class groups, before beginning a new school year.

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