Although France is routinely cited as one of the world’s most wealthy nations, there remains a plethora of social issues facing society (and consequently, a great need for volunteers!) Compared to other industrialized nations, France’s economy has a low population of small and medium sized companies, creating great inefficiencies in production and a high unemployment rate. This has in turn caused an influx of crime and violence, particularly among French youth. For volunteers who parlez Francais, you’re in luck, as many volunteer projects in Paris will give you plenty of opportunity to pratique!
Many different types of volunteer organizations exist in Paris; whether your interests lie in conservation, restoration, or awareness projects, you certainly can be picky! Familiarize yourself with all of your program options before you commit to a certain project. Volunteer work in France requires a time commitment anywhere from 1 week to 1 year; regardless of the time you have available, France will make a great volunteer abroad destination.
Volunteers in France are needed to help with the preservation and reconstruction of many historic landmarks across the country; though this work is labor intensive, it presents the unique opportunity of not only facing history but also learning traditional, environmentally friendly building skills. Learn more in depth about France’s deep-rooted Gothic architecture; after all, sometimes the only way to save historic buildings is to move them!
A popular option for short term volunteer trips in France is through the program Volunteers for Peace (VFP). These “workcamps” were implemented in the aftermath of World War I all across Europe in an effort to promote the exchange of cultures and increased understanding. Thousands of projects are available through this organization alone, and can range from education and hands-on work to working with traditionally underrepresented groups of people, helping to bring both dignity and resources to people who are socially marginalized.
Restos du Coeur
These “Restaurants of Love” are soup kitchens and food distribution centers located throughout France, with the original being founded in Paris. Just under 30 years in existence, these short term volunteer gigs will enrich any travel throughout France. Today, there are more than 40,000 volunteers annually contributing to the cause!
Planning Your Trip
Americans volunteering in Paris, don’t be alarmed when you greet someone and they lightly kiss you on each cheek. This is as normal as a handshake in French culture (and we promise it will get less awkward as time goes on!) Be sure to brush up on your basic French, as “Bonjour!” and “Bonsoir!” are a regularly expected greeting during everyday interactions.
An experience volunteering abroad in Paris will be a launch pad for understanding not only different cultures and beliefs, but also better understanding your own - what better way to work alongside local people and befriend them than through civic engagement. Even if you only have a short amount of time to spare, you can still make a world of difference!
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Paris
Individuals interested in volunteering in France are encouraged to visit their doctors and physicians between 1-2 months prior to embarking on the trip. Be sure to be up-to-date with routine shots, including measles, mumps, MMR, tetanus, and polio vaccinations.
Like many cities, Paris is both a safe and dangerous place dependent on where you are living and working. Be a smart traveler. It is advised to always travel with groups; in the case where you are traveling independently, be sure to inform others of your whereabouts and time of return. Beware of petty crimes, as scam artists frequent the streets of Paris and typically work in groups of two!
Contributed by Megan Lee