Positive news from France: our pick of feel good stories

We look at how a golden retriever is helping children to read more confidently, a boy who saved his mother and a father-daughter bike ride for charity

Four feel good stories to put a smile on your face as the week draws to a close
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1: Boy, 7, saves mother with emergency call

A seven year old boy managed to save his mother when she collapsed by calling firefighters and calmly telling them: “Hello, my mum can’t wake up.” He then followed their instructions until help arrived.

You can listen to the call below.

“I don't think he really understood the situation, but everything [he said] was clear and precise,” said Corporal Florian Boubet who answered the call for the sapeur-pompier (usually the first responders in a healthcare emergency in France).

“If we could only get calls like that we'd save a lot of time in terms of getting the emergency services involved,” he added.

Staying calm on the phone, the boy followed advice on checking how injured his mum was – shouting into her ear, checking if she was breathing – and even helped put her in the side-lying ‘recovery’ position.

Mr Boubet then asked the child to go and get a neighbour who helped before the firefighters arrived to take over in the Yvelines department where they live.

At the end of the call, he told the neighbour: “Please congratulate the boy on our behalf… it's very good what he's done.”

“I was a little emotional,” said Mr Boubet, who has worked in the service for 11 years. “He saved his mum, and thanks to him she can give him a hug this evening.”

You can listen to the call, which was posted by the firefighters of the Yvelines on their X page (formerly twitter) below.

2: Golden retriever helps children feel at ease when reading

The presence of a dog in a classroom in Brittany is making children feel more at ease when reading aloud or speaking, helping improve their confidence and learning abilities.

Roxanne, a golden retriever, is the dog of retired English teacher Marie-France Quenouille, and a familiar face in her village.

Mme Quenouille had already been taking the dog for visits to the local elderly people’s home in Sarzeau (Morbihan) to boost morale, then started taking her once a week to a local school.

The dog sits patiently and waits whilst the children read to her, boosting their skills and confidence and reassuring them with her friendly attitude.

“The children are calmer, and Roxanne's presence reassures and soothes them. They express themselves more easily than they would in front of an adult," Mme Quenouille said.

Roxanne’s presence is so effective with the children that a researcher in canine meditation from France’s Agence nationale de la recherche (national research agency) wants to conduct further studies.

The researcher believes Roxanne could be especially effective in helping children with learning difficulties read, and soon a regular session in the media library in the nearby town of Sarzeau (Morbihan) could host reading sessions with the dog present.

In the US, a similar trial was found to have improved the reading comprehension of children, although it has never been tried in France before.

Read more: What is a ‘MOOC’ and how can it help you learn French for free?

3: Volunteers help animals during heatwave – and you can too

Animals are also suffering as France finds itself in another heatwave, struggling to find food and water, or suitable shade from the scorching heat.

More and more people are joining volunteer associations to help them however, and a number of associations have released a list of ways people at home can help animals close to them.

The first tip is to leave out water in a small saucer (3 – 5cm in size, and not too deep) to help birds drink fresh water. The water should be placed out of the reach of cats, and be changed every day to prevent attracting mosquitoes.

“Providing a small tub of water with a large stone in it can also be good in helping animals/insects,” said Hegalaldia, a shelter in partnership with the pet charity 30millionsdamis.fr.

When it comes to your garden, “it is advisable to multiply the number of small biotopes, and to favour indigenous trees and shrubs, which are real natural air-conditioners,” they said.

Country hedges, patches of tall grass, woodpiles, mud trays and ponds are also helpful for animals, allowing them to rest in the shade.

If you see a bird suffering you can try to place some water nearby – but not force it to drink.

For other animals, you can read our article below on what to do when you spot a distressed animal out in the wild.

Read more: How to raise alarm if you see a pet in distress on your French travels

4: Father and daughter ride 2,000km on tandem bike for charity

A father-daughter duo are teaming up to ride over 2,000km across France to raise money for charity.

The man and his daughter, 16, departed from Lyon on Wednesday August 16, and will bike through 26 departments in France as part of the 15-day trip.

They are raising money for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, which allows sick, underprivileged children outside of France to have surgery, and have already raised over €15,000 for the charity.

“The children can't be treated in their own countries because of a lack of resources, skills or equipment,” said the father.

He also wants to create lasting memories for him and his daughter to look back on, he said, and the route taken will look like a heart over France when tracked by GPS.

The duo hope to raise €24,000 – you can find the link to donate here.

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