Mosaïques.9 : a mission field

Three Little Sisters present the MOSAÏQUES.9 association that was founded by a team consisting of Little Sisters and friends. They describe their mission in this setting. Testimonies.

The Mosaïques.9 association, which is situated in the north of Paris and has the aim of receiving immigrant families in the locality, is now five years old. 
I am retired and have participated as a volunteer in the project from the beginning. I can say that I am overjoyed at the positive way this centre has evolved. 
All the families who come to it have been referred by school or local authority social workers. People also hear about it through word of mouth. All are immigrants, from at least 25 different countries, and are often very poorly housed (sub-letting, cramped accommodation). This is the cause of many worries that they have to cope with. It is easy to go into Mosaïques; it is enough to open a door and you find yourself in a ground-floor space where even the children’s push-chairs fit in easily. The families say that they feel welcomed and at ease straight away. 
I have great pleasure in coming to Mosaïques, part-time, where the services I give range from receiving people at any time – because the demands are constant – , organising small groups for French lessons, and two afternoons for after-school support. 
All in all, there is plenty of life in the four rooms! 
Some thirty volunteers cover the whole week, each one taking one, two or three adult pupils – if possible people who are at much the same level. 
For these people who come from far away, regularity and punctuality are not necessarily something simple. Arriving at a fixed time, being expected by a volunteer teacher who also has to come specially, is not something that is easy in the beginning, but people learn if we insist that it is necessary to telephone beforehand if they find they can’t come. Indeed, these families who are often in great difficulties have many other formalities to go through: at the town hall, at the hospital, at the school, at the prefecture etc. 
The volunteers are "hooked" by the attention they give to their pupils. Relations of friendship and mutual help always come about. And when that happens, their progress in French becomes very real. It becomes easier to make the effort to express oneself. 
This year, three adults took the exam in French that entitles them to a diploma that weighs heavily in their favour when their file for residence in France is being assessed. There is no shortage of friendly exchanges: accompanying people for official interviews, a surprise cake for a birthday, participation in one of their religious festivals and, when one or other of them returns from a visit to their own country, the gift of a fan from India, a little statue from Egypt etc. 
Mosaïques is also a place for children. Sixteen to eighteen come regularly two afternoons a week after school for help with their school work. What a joy it is to see children opening up, starting to understand, making progress! 
Afterwards there is time for play while waiting for the mothers to come to take them home. Playing together – this is an art in itself and an apprenticeship in living together. 
All of us, big and small, are "apprentices" in some way, in exchange and reciprocity. 
Sister Roseline, Little Sister of the Assumption
MOSAÏQUES.9! Sisters from many countries, LSA or other congregations, and other visitors have come to see how this Association in the 9th arrondissement of Paris operates. 
However, nothing is simpler than to come and knock at the door. That is what many immigrants – women, men and children – do, whether it be to learn French or to improve it. As for the children, they come to do their homework after school and end the afternoon by some games together. 
My role, two day a week, is to receive all the requests and to be available for the volunteers who give their time. We provide a little bit of human warmth and conviviality by offering a comforting cup of tea or coffee. We are not specialists in listening to people and the fact of receiving people who have difficulty in expressing themselves in French demands a great deal of attention if we are to understand them.
We are quite strict that the times set be respected so that nobody is inconvenienced. Some of the volunteers come quite a distance, and their pupils often have uncertain, undeclared work in the suburbs of Paris. It is difficult for them to come, and to arrive punctually. This is where we come up against our different cultures and where we must "transform" one another so that each may be at ease with the other. 
We also meet social workers who are concerned about the how migrants are received. All have a humanitarian ethic in the service of people. We encourage each and all to take charge of their affairs: we are only crutches to help them in their quest for work and the regularisation of their situation. We promote the desire the women have to meet together to talk about themselves and their place in the family: they are not just some¬body who looks after the house and the food. The association also offers them the possibility of accompanying their children, with their husband, to the theatre or circus. 
All this tells me that Humanity is continually being built up by all these gestures of solidarity and welcome, of goodness and of peace: this is not an empty word between the Muslims and Coptic Christians from Egypt who come to the Association. Today, on seeing these mutual efforts to overcome themselves, doesn’t GOD say, "all this is very good". 
Jesus himself in his time wished "that all may have life and have it to the full". Now He is expecting us to help him in his Creation for a New Humanity, which passes through our hands and through the happiness of GIVING and of RECEIVING. 
Sister Marie-Jo, Little Sister of the Assumption
"Mosaïques"? It is the welcome from the little bells at the entrance and a friendly smile that are enough to put the person crossing the threshold at ease. Since my arrival here, some months ago, I have met six Coptic Christian Egyptians. Among others there is Yousef, an accountant in a Cairo hotel who has become a waiter in a Paris restaurant; Matthieu, a journalist in Upper Egypt, who is looking for small jobs. They are all without documents and have come to Mosaïques to improve their French, dogged by anxiety about how they are to survive. Marie-Anne holds back her tears as she talks about the trials of her country. Although they retain their unshakeable good humour, they have nevertheless lost their innate taste for joking. 
Sister Emmanuelle, Little Sister of the Assumption 
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