France - An inter-generation experience at Grenelle

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the International Convention on the Rights of Children, the team at Mosaïque.9 organised a meeting between children and aged persons to talk about one of the articles of that Convention: ’Every child has the right to a future’

Sr Agnès contacted us to ask whether the residents of the care home would agree to meet some children. The children would present their dream for a better future and the elderly persons would tell you they had had a desire, a project, in their youth and how they had carried it out or, unfortunately, how they had not been able to do so. 
Enthusiastically, five residents (three sisters and two lay persons) agreed to meet four children, aged between 8 and 10, and the persons accompanying them. 
On the day that had been chosen the five children came, rather timidly, into our community. However, very quickly, with the help of those accompanying them, they shared their projects. These had been drawn on a large piece of cardboard and they commented on them and explained them. 
Denébou, a girl who wants to be a doctor would like to combat loneliness and open homes for people who live alone, facilitate the "adoption" of grand-parents, organise celebrations! etc. 
Mohamed, who has dreams of being a famous footballer and earning a lot of money, would like to fight against pollution, have more rubbish bins installed, impose fines on polluters and strengthen the role of the local authority to ensure that everybody would have drinking water. 
Zenabou would like to become a paediatrician and dreams of eliminating poverty. She wants to set up hostels to welcome people, have a big house for the immigrants. She would like the poor to be able to build their own house, that there be free restaurants for the poor and more facilities for people trying to obtain their naturalisation papers. 
Riadh, whose dream is to become a "very, very, very famous" footballer, would like that there to be more toys for the children, that they would be able to go to the Parc des Princes every Saturday, that the children be invited to the concert; that the parents organise "pyjama evenings" for playing together. (This gave us the opportunity to learn about a "pyjama evening", something that is very popular at the moment with children.) 
After replying to questions and looking at the drawings, it was the turn of the elderly people to present themselves and the children listened very attentively. Madame Anna Le M. told how she changed school every time her father, a soldier, was transferred, and how each time, in spite of her sadness, she had succeeded in making new friends and had learned how to appreciate good things. 
Then, Sr Geneviève told how her dream of being a mountain guide had been fulfilled when she joined the Guides and discovered the joy of an ideal of life, of respect for nature and of service. 
Madame B. B., in her turn, explained that her dream had been that everybody would love her and how she had discovered that it is necessary to be pleasant with others. If people were to like her, she must like them too and, to make people happy, we must smile at them. "And I have continued, right to the time I arrived in this care home. It’s my system, and it works!" 
Sister Françoise told how, being very shy, she did not talk much er dream was to be able to express herself. It was when she became a Guide that she was helped and then, in her turn, wanted to give to others what she had received. She became a captain in the guides to look after the younger ones. 
The last to speak was Sister Marie Claire who, as a refugee during the exodus of 1940, used to dream of peace, of seeing her friends again, of returning to where her parents came from, but she had to wait, ’it was the war, we didn’t have the money…’ So, she learned to share, ’because we didn’t have anything much’. In her professional life she had a special love for children and worked with them. 
The children asked questions, some-times with emotion: the exodus? What is it? A person had said: ’I have lost my son’. What does that mean? A little halt around the idea of death…. What is that, the guides or the scouts, in the service of others? 
Everybody was delighted with the refreshments that had been prepared and the drinks and biscuits were consumed with pleasure. We parted, promising to have another meeting, if possible!
The following day, the children were still astonished and moved to have talked with old people who had known so many things and experienced so many events! For their part, the residents were asking: ’When are the children going to come again?’ 
Sr Marie-Annick
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