Five good news stories from France

Read our pick of feelgood articles including an eagle's successful recovery from injury, an amazing artefacts find and a nice initative to help refugees

A four-part split image of a baby turtle, a defibrillator, a Bonelli’s eagle, and a house key opening a home door
From baby turtles and a man saved from a heart attack to healed eagles and homes welcoming refugees, it has been a heartwarming week
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From healed eagles to precious metals to helping the homeless, it has been a week to restore faith in humanity…

1. Holidaymakers offer their homes to refugees

A refugee housing NGO has started working with homeowners in France to help shelter homeless refugees. Participating homeowners let the refugee families stay in their empty homes while they are away on holiday.

Every evening Utopia 56 groups people who need to find somewhere to stay that night, and takes them to suitable properties. These also include homeless shelters and churches.

However, in summer, many shelters are closed for the holidays, making it more difficult. This is where the homes of holidaymakers come in.

Iliana Ghazi, manager of the family section at Utopia 56, told Le Parisien: “In August, we have between zero and four solutions to offer every night in Paris and in the suburbs. So we get to the point where we have weeks-old babies, ill children and eight-months pregnant women on the streets.”

But now more and more people are offering their homes to those who need them while they travel.

The people who stay at the homes must meet several criteria; they must be known to the association, and must speak French or English. They must have asked for accommodation repeatedly, and have already been housed by the association three times before.

One woman who let the association use her home while she travelled around Scotland for three weeks, said that the first week, a couple with two children stayed, while after that it was a pregnant woman with her partner and child.

“Every other day, someone from the association comes to check that everything is OK. There are a lot of empty flats in Paris so it's just as well that this space is being used by a family who needs it,” she said.

In Paris, there are now 800 homes listed as part of the scheme and people can also sign up in Calais, Lille, Tours, Dijon, and Brittany.

2. Baby turtles born on French beaches

More baby turtles are expected to be born this week in the Var (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), after the surprise births of around 15 turtles on the beach of La Bergerie at Hyères.

Five nests of Caouanne turtles were found on the sand, with the first births noticed on August 11, and three more recorded on August 22. All were able to go into the sea safely, said officers at the Office Français de la Biodiversité and the Port-Cros National Park.

The nests were first reported by beach cleaners, and are thought to have been dug up by a dog or a fox. The remaining nests have now been put under protection, with volunteers stationed at nearby beaches - as well as automatic cameras - to ensure any new births are not missed.

"You really have to pay close attention to detect the first signs of an emergence,” said Sidonie Catteau, head of the ‘Tortue Marine’ project for the Marineland association, and coordinator of the Var network le Réseau Tortues Marines de Méditerranée Française.

"A dip is created in the sand, a very subtle movement…You can also see the tip of the beak or a leg starting to emerge from the sand before the little turtles race to the sea.”

3. Tourist saved by passers-by after suffering heart attack

A 67-year-old man who had a heart attack in the middle of the street while on holiday has been saved by the quick actions of a passer-by and the lucky proximity of emergency services.

The man collapsed in the street in Saint-Louis, Sète (Hérault, Occitanie) on the evening of August 19. A passer-by quickly began first aid, including chest compressions, to help revive him.

Two municipal police and voluntary firefighters were on patrol in the area and quickly took over, while a third police officer went to find a defibrillator. They also brought their patrol ambulance to the scene.

The patient, who previously did not have a pulse, was able to be revived. He was then airlifted to intensive care at the Arnaud de Villeneuve hospital in Montpellier. It later emerged that he had suffered a heart attack and had been in full cardiovascular arrest.

4. Injured eagle found in Marseille train station healed and released

An injured eagle found in a train station in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) has been healed and safely released into the Calanques national park.

The Bonelli’s eagle - which is a protected species - was discovered by a passenger in the Saint-Charles station. It had been injured and was unable to stand or fly.

Zacharie Bruyas, communications manager for the Calanques national park, told France 3: “It was found in a critical state. There were signs of impact to its head and pelvis.”

Animal specialists arrived at the scene, and took the bird to the regional wild fauna centre, which is managed by the Ligue de protection des oiseaux (LPO) PACA. They discovered that it had a GPS tracker attached to its foot, and tried to identify its path to understand how it became injured.

They believe that it may have flown over train tracks and accidentally landed on a train, or flown close to a train and been blown off course by the force. Usually, the main hazards for birds around trains are the electric overhead lines.

Thanks to the experts’ care, the bird was able to recover, and was released into the Calanques earlier this month.

Mr Bruyas said: “It was a real privilege when we saw it flying again. It was a shared moment of emotion. And the first data points [we received from the GPS tracker] are good. It is back to where it would have been, towards Sainte-Beaume.”

The park manager said that the team was also working on ways to reduce similar accidents in future.

5. Precious artefacts found by amateur metal detectors

Wedding and engagement rings, a propeller, and Bronze Age axes are among the artefacts discovered this year by amateur metal detectors in Landes.

The group L’Amicale Détection Landes-Gascogne, which has been prospecting for 20 years, brings metal detectorists together to search out lost objects on the beach, or in a lake.

Group founder Marc Heuzé told France Bleu: “This year alone, I've found eight wedding rings, four engagement rings and a boat propeller. My passion is finding and returning jewellery; I don't collect other people's jewellery.”

Yannick, the group’s treasurer, said: “You can't imagine the pleasure we take in restoring the objects and looking at people's reactions.”

The group also sometimes collaborates with archaeologists, especially if they find something significant. In 2015, Mr Heuzé found Bronze Age axes in the Léon lake, when he was trying to find a ring.

The axes were handed to the Service Régional de l'Archéologie de Bordeaux, and Mr Heuzé hopes to see them in a local museum one day.

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