Owners lend second homes so sick children in France get a holiday

We look at the charities matching holiday home owners with struggling families

One of the families to have benefited from the scheme in Isère

Property owners in France – and, in particular, those with second homes – have a chance to create precious memories for families of sick children or those on limited means by lending their houses for holidays.

The Connexion spoke to two organisations that offer free holidays for those in need, and to some of the people who have benefited from the schemes.

Time away from hospitals and illness

Pauline Kaczmarek was able to take her family, including 13-year-old daughter Luna, who has a brain tumour, to Normandy, where they could enjoy time together “away from hospitals and illness”.

She said the holiday was “reassuring and comforting”.

During the week, Luna was able to fulfil her dream of horse-riding on a beach with the help of her hosts.

Meanwhile, Aurélie Lecamus, mother of seven-year-old Dorian, who was born with chronic renal failure, hailed their week’s holiday “magical”.

Read more: ‘Giving to help others in France and overseas is good for you’

‘Children do not understand why they suffer’

Coeurs en Liberté pour le Bonheur des Enfants, which organises holidays for children who are chronically ill or who have undergone extensive surgery, was started in July 2020 by Joanna Deceire.

Mrs Deceire suffers from health problems and felt compelled to make life easier for youngsters in similar positions: “Adults understand the situation better, but for a child it can be very difficult.

“I could see that they did not understand why they had to suffer.”

A similar initiative is Parents Vacances, which works with charities such as Secours Catholique and the Maison des Familles to find holiday accommodation for families who cannot afford to get away.

Read more: Homeless in France get accommodation in offices when workers go home

Associations organise paperwork and insurance

Both associations take care of the paperwork and try to make things as easy as possible for property owners.

They say the holidays work best with second homes that are already set up to be rented out, but they accept main residences too.

Owners must describe their homes on the phone or take photos and give a written description. This allows the association to assess health and safety and whether the house is disability-friendly and wheelchair accessible.

The homeowner then agrees a suitable week to lend the property and is matched to a family.

A contract is signed by the homeowner, family and association. It includes civil liability and property damage insurance, which the association organises.

Hosts do not need to speak French

Knowledge of French is not necessary, as both associations have members who speak English or promise to find help to make it work.

There must, however, be someone who speaks French when the family arrives, although not necessarily the homeowner. It could be a neighbour, friend or anyone else you can trust with the keys.

This is important for the families, said Mrs Kaczmarek: “Being welcomed made it feel like we were staying with family rather than with strangers.”

The associations are also eager to encourage a relationship between the hosts and the family, hence why someone must be there to greet them.

Host had a great experience and will do it again

Hugues de Lambilly, who owns a holiday home in Forcalqueiret in Var in the south of France, lent it to a family last year via Parents Vacances and said he had a great experience.

He said the organisation was “very dynamic” and wished the concept was better known.

He will be lending his home again this summer.

A 2023 survey of other homeowners who had used Parents Vacances also yielded positive feedback.

When asked about their level of satisfaction and likelihood of recommending the association to friends/family, the average score was over 9.2 (10 being the highest).

Associations on hand during the stay

During the stay, both organisations are in close contact with owners and guests in case of any problems.

Coeurs en Liberté promises to take care of all cleaning and heating costs.

The associations have now organised 100 holidays each for struggling families or sick children.

You can find more information online (in French only) at Parents Vacances and Coeurs en Liberté pour le Bonheur des Enfants.

Anyone interested in lending their home can leave contact details on the website and a representative will call back.

Related articles

American donates flat to French town to help people in trouble

We found our extended family volunteering in France, says UK-US couple

‘People feed their pets before themselves’, says French animal charity