Some 600 people invited by Secours Catholique for a party during a cruise on the Seine in Paris, December 24, 2017
„It’s the first time I spend a Christmas like this, it’s fabulous“. As Emmanuel, 14, some 600 people invited by Secours Catholique were preparing Sunday to live a party during a cruise on the Seine in Paris, far from their daily lives.
Garlands, balloons, lanterns and fir trees decorate the five barges mobilized for the occasion, moored on the Seine facing an illuminated Eiffel Tower.
In some boats, it is Santa Claus who welcome families, isolated people, accompanied or hosted throughout the year by the delegations of Secours catholique in the Ile-de-France region and the association of the cities of Secours catholique .
On the menu: „an opera of sole with smoked salmon, a trout pavé or a fillet of beef roasted cream of cep and a log of red fruits“. All accompanied by wine and champagne.
After the aperitif, the five barges had to leave the quays for a cruise on the Seine, in front of the most beautiful monuments of Paris.
Nana, 22, can not believe her eyes. „If I had known it was so beautiful, I would have put on an evening dress!“ Jokes this Congolese asylum seeker. „Since she arrived in Paris two months ago, she has remained locked in her home, so it changes her,“ says her friend, a volunteer at Secours Catholique, who invited her.
Bernard Thibaud, Secretary General of Secours Catholique, with guests during an annual charity cruise on the Seine in Paris, December 24, 2017
For Aminata, it’s the second Christmas on a houseboat with the association. Housed in a home in Val-d’Oise, she came with her three children who live with her. „I was very happy to come back this year and share this evening with them,“ she says. Otherwise, she would not have had the „motivation“ or the „means“ to celebrate Christmas.
– „Unforgettable“ –
„The people we receive live in a very precarious social situation, well below the poverty line,“ said Bernard Thibaud, secretary general of Secours Catholique. „The idea is to give them an evening of celebration and meetings, a way to get them out of their daily lives.“
To accompany the guests, a hundred volunteers take turns in the reception, service, animation … Kristine is responsible for the safety of children. „I came here five years ago, I wanted to come back for a Christmas that seems much richer than a traditional Christmas Eve family,“ she says. She is happy to „share the joy of people who do not necessarily have much happiness in their daily lives“.
Zahia, a Santa hat screwed on his head, goes on his side to help in the kitchen. „This is my fifth Christmas here,“ says the volunteer, who is accompanied by her mother, sister and daughter. „It’s become our way of celebrating Christmas, we want to share this evening with people who do not often have the opportunity to party.“
On two of the barges, the guests were associated with the preparation of the evening: „tonight, we are a big family, who set the table, prepared the kitchen, thought about the music together,“ says Hélène, a Secours employee Catholic. „Tonight, everyone is a volunteer and we leave the administrative files: we will exchange, laugh“ …
Sabrina, who came with her husband and two children, can not help but smile: „the table is beautiful, the view too, we have the Eiffel Tower right next to us“. She takes out her mobile phone to film around her: „like that, it will remain a truly unforgettable evening.“