Miss A Columnist

Adrienne Erin is an artist turned freelance writer who studied studio art and animation in a tiny town in central Ohio, but has worked in fields as diverse as career development, design, and public relations since. Now she resides in central Pennsylvania, but she takes the train or hops behind the wheel to visit nearby Philadelphia often. She blogs and ghost writes for a number of sites, but you can find some of her work on her personal blog, Pongra.

Her love of travel was ignited by her time spent studying art abroad in Paris, France. Since then, her travels have taken her across France, as far as the Czech Republic, and even to the site of the Chernobyl accident, not to mention more than a dozen US states. She is an avid road tripper, and has loved long distance driving since she first got behind the wheel of her car.

When she’s not on the go, she loves cooking, collage, and obsessing over vintage postcards. She frequently participates in mail exchanges and loves Skyping in French with her faraway friends. Please follow her on Twitter at @adrienneerin.

Volunteer With The Restos du Coeur in Paris

If you’re visiting Paris and want to do some volunteer work during your stay, Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart) will give you the opportunity to help hungry Parisians. Established in 1985 by the famous French comedian Coluche, Restos du Coeur is an organization centered on good food, good laughs, and above all, charity. In the winter of 2011 alone, 115 million meals were distributed to the homeless in Paris. Other initiatives by Restos du Coeur include cooking seminars, helping unemployed individuals return to work as well as housing and education assistance. As a visiting volunteer, Restos du Coeur will give you the opportunity to meet local Parisians and get a feel for volunteerism in the city of lights.

small__5475337948About the Organization

Restos du Coeur has three different ways in which they help feed those in need:

Food Distribution Centers

These centers are designed for low-income families who need help paying for groceries. Families who are registered as living in poverty can come to the food distribution centers to pick-up baskets filled with healthy cooking ingredients as well as toiletries and hygiene products.

Paris soup kitchen

Homeless line up to accept food at an outdoor soup kitchen by the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. (Photo credit: n-lane on Flickr)

As the most visible and iconic branch of this charity, outdoor soup kitchens help feed Parisians right on the streets. The soup kitchens are set up in squares around Paris and are fully stocked with fresh, healthy food. Anyone who is in need of a meal can come, no questions are asked. Each person receives a balanced meal which includes a hot entrée of meat or fish, bread, vegetables or pasta, as well as a dessert. Those in need can also choose to simply have hot soup, cereal and coffee. Books and blankets are also provided for those that need them.

Restos Du Coeur on Wheels

This is probably the most challenging task for Restos du Coeur volunteers, as the people you are helping won’t necessarily want your charity or seek you out. Volunteers on the Restos du Coeur van drive around Paris looking for homeless people on the streets to deliver food to. Whether it’s having a small conversation while bringing food, or leaving a meal next to someone sleeping on the streets, these volunteers must be friendly, approachable and gentle with those they are helping.

Homeless line up along a canal in Paris in red tent, given to them by charities hoping to draw attention to the sheer number of homeless in the City of Lights. (Photo credit: Arslan on Flickr)

Homeless line up along a canal in Paris in red tents, given to them by the group Enfants de Don Quichotte, who hoped to draw attention to the sheer number of homeless in the City of Lights. (Photo credit: Arslan on Flickr)

Becoming A Volunteer

If you’re passionate about helping others and what to do your part, Restos du Coeur would love for you to join their team of 63,000 volunteers. To become a volunteer all applicants must fill out a form on the Restos du Coeur website stating your basic information, availability and how you would like to help. The application is simple and shouldn’t require any foreign transcripts or other materials. Once you have been registered expect to go through some light training as having exceptional volunteers is highly important to this organization. If you’re visiting Paris for a short time and have conversational to proficient French language skills, expect to be handing out food on the streets at the outdoor soup kitchen.

If you’ve been bitten by the volunteer bug and wish to help others on your next trip to Paris, Restos du Coeur is a great organization to pair up with. Not only will you be helping the homeless and the hungry, you will get to know local Parisians personally and get a deeper feel for the culture. If you don’t think you can squeeze volunteering your time into your vacation, you can always make a monetary donation. However you choose to help, know that you are making a difference in the lives of Parisians in need.

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