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There is something special about Monday mornings in Paris. Sharpen your knife, grab your peeler and your apron and head off to La Soupe (the Soup Kitchen). Spend a little time chopping carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions – sometimes we even get le butternut. A petite French woman in heels and an elegant apron will inspect your work and allow you to bring your offerings to the kitchen. In the meantime, you realize you’ve spent an hour talking about the weekend, the kids, the grandkids, the best Chinese market in Paris … in English, in French, in Franglais. And all the vegetables (even le butternut) have disappeared. And the aromas are starting to come from the kitchen!
And after our own lunch, our guests arrive. Yes, mostly men, mostly homeless, mostly mentally ill or alcoholic but altogether human. The number served is quite astonishing – usually about two hundred.
AWG members have been volunteering at La Soupe since the 1980s. Some of us are choppers, some of us are servers. Some are both. Occasionally, one of us is promoted (however temporarily) to cook! Some stay for an hour. Some stay from 9:30 until all the pots are washed. And when La Soupe closes from mid-June until mid-October, we miss it.
YES Akademia (YAKA, formerly Global Potential in France) is a global grassroots for-social-profit organization founded in Paris in 2012. Y.E.S. stands for "Youth Empowerment and Solidarity" and Akademia refers to Plato’s multi-disciplinary learning forum circa 400 years B.C. YAKA engages youth from lower socio-economic neighborhoods, their families, and their communities to learn about and work to address human rights locally and globally. The signature curriculum offers over 250 hours of workshops, along with intercultural experience abroad and mentoring in social entrepreneurship. AWG Paris is proud to have supported YAKA since 2015 with our fund-raising.
American graduate student Molly Melching first moved to Senegal in 1974, and has spent her life studying and developing ways to meet the needs and realities of rural West African communities. She worked with Senegalese cultural specialists to create the Community Empowerment Program to engage communities in their own languages and using traditional methods of learning. Her original concepts have become a model for community-led change and are now used in 22 languages amongst six countries.
Participants in Tostan programs learn about their rights to education and health. Tostan has worked to educate people about the dangers of child marriage and female genital cutting with the result that more than 8,000 West African communities have publicly declared an end to these practices. To learn more about Tostan, go to the website or follow them on Facebook at : http://www.Facebook.com/Tostan.org, on Instagram @tostaninc or Twitter, Tostan@Tostan.