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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Encore un enfant sur trois privé de départ

by Julien Lauprêtre, president of Secours populaire français

Published in l'Humanité on 24 June 2006

In France, One out of Three Children Still Doesn’t Go Away on Holidays

Patrick Bolland

Translated Thursday 13 July 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Is the right to holidays becoming a luxury? At Secours populaire (1), we don’t just call for the “right to go away on holiday”, we also work to make sure that this becomes really part of people’s lives.

This has been so since the end of 1944 when, emerging from the ruins left by the Nazi occupation, with its funeral processions and pools of blood, those who first set up our organisation arranged, against all odds, holidays in the snowy mountains for the children of the deported martyrs and the patriots assassinated in France.

Each year Secours populaire français volunteers are outdoing each other with new initiatives to enable children, teenagers and families go away on holiday. It was in August 2005, right after “World Sunshine - the day of those of can’t go on holiday” which brought together 60,000 children from France and abroad at the Stade de France in northern Paris, that we started putting together the the idea of designating 2006, the year of the 70th anniversary of the winning of the right to paid vacations, at the centre of our campaign to make a special appeal to public opinion, elected officials and the State. Because 70 years after adopting the law introducing paid holidays for workers, one out of three children and more than 40% of people living in France still don’t know the pleasures of going away on holiday.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “1936-2006 - Holidays Are Not A Luxury". Secours populaire français is pulling out all the stops by multiplying initiatives, forming partnerships with local authorities, elected representatives, private and public enterprise, specialized popular organizations, the world of entertainment. These efforts have been successful since, just a few days before the period when so many leave on summer holidays, the number of those benefiting from these “solidarity holidays” is many more than in previous years.

But, however good the intentions, they still can’t make up for the crying injustice of those who can’t go away on holiday. So Secours populaire français has taken the initiative of collecting tens of thousands of personal stories in “Say it so you can do something about it” journals, describing both the first chance to go away on holidays, but also the “no-goes”. Of those already collected, we can see well how much it means to go away, to “live another life”, finding that you’re “different afterwards”. On the other hand, you can also read the drama of those who “watch the others leaving”.

In the June 2006 issue of the magazine Convergence, Yves Buin, child psychologist and novelist, analyzed the effects of the “no-goes”: “This risks cutting these children off from others, who have developed this culture of traveling, when they grow up... The excluded child will develop more resentment towards his parents and his local environment, both of which are unable to provide him with the happiness others can enjoy. This resentment is not without feelings of guilt since the child understands well that his brothers, sisters and parents don’t have more access to this than he does, but these operate in the mode of ‘since the others - i.e., society a whole - has no time for me, I have no time for them’.”

All these personal testimonies, and the initiative was ours, supported by Catholic Aid, the ATD-Quart-monde association, the “popular restaurants” (restos de coeur) set up by the comedian Colluche, social centres, the "Open Holidays" and "Family Holidays" movements, the "Youth in the Open Air" group - these personal reports will be published in 2007 by the organization France Bleu. They will constitute a form of defense-argument, as in a court-hearing, a legal plea so that the “right to holidays” is no longer just a pious wish but becomes a reality.

All this has to be done to make sure the Law Against Exclusions, adopted in 1998, is really implemented. In its Article 140, the Law states: “Equal access by everyone, throughout their lives, to culture, to sports, to holidays and to leisure-time activities constitutes a national objective. It allows for the true exercise of citizenship. Realisation of this objective ... also includes the development of tourist structures for those experiencing economic hardship and for families in difficulty, to enable persons in situations of exclusion to go away on holiday. The State, territorial administrations, social services, private and public enterprise and charitable associations contribute to achieving this objective.” To anyone listening, we say “Right On” !

Translator’s Note: (1) Secours populaire français is a French NGO that has been committed since 1945 (when it was officially incorporated) to fighting the problems of exclusion, particularly of children and poor families.

Article paru dans l’édition du 24 juin 2006.
© Journal l’Humanité

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