If you’re in Paris during the holidays, far from your family, no reason to feel sorry for yourself. Take advantage of your lack of “family obligations” and help out those in need in your adopted community. If there are any I have missed please let me know!
There are a few charitable associations who need extra help over the holidays. And of course, if you don’t have the time, your tax-deductible donations are always welcome, and I also list holiday markets benefitting local charities so you can shop for gifts while helping these charities:
1. Secours Populaire
Le Secours Populaire needs help at their gift-wrapping stations at FNAC Italie 11 (13th) and FNAC St-Lazare (9th), where volunteers wrap gifts in return for donations. There is a chart to fill out with your availability by the day and hour, for wrapping at least two hours daily 10am-8pm, through December 31st.
The Secours Populaire will be collecting new toys from December 8-10 for “Operation 3000 jouets = 3000 sourires”, at 11 collection kiosks around Paris (including one at 12 Place de la Bastille from 5-8pm on Tues and Thurs, and 2-5pm on Fri).
2. Les Petits Frères des Pauvres
Les Petits Frères des Pauvres needs volunteers for the 24th and 25th December to accompany the elderly to and from a community Christmas dinner and also to help prepare and serve the holiday meals and deliver Christmas packages. There are two contact links on this page, one for North Paris and one for South Paris.
3. The Salvation Army
The Armée du Salut needs volunteers to help with the holiday dinner celebrations on the 24th and 31st, as well as gift wrapping, gift delivery and other holiday preparations.
UNICEF is urgently looking for volunteers to help sell their holiday cards at stands around Paris and the rest of France. You can register on their website or attend the next volunteer info session in Paris December 10th at 2:30pm (info on the website).
You can also help UNICEF by simply purchasing their holiday gifts, calendars and cards at their Boutique Solidaire, online and in two Paris locations: 7 rue St-Lazare, 9th, M° Notre-Dame-de-Lorette; and 15 rue de Rémusat, 16th, M° Mirabeau
5. Restos du Coeur
The Restos du Coeur are food distribution centers that need long-term volunteers and donations.
6. La Banque Alimentaire
La Banque Alimentaire is also a food bank that needs long-term volunteers and donations.
7. Les Apprentis d’Auteuil
The Apprentis d’Auteuil help at-risk youth, always in need of volunteers for long-term projects.
8. Society for the Protection of Animals
Established in 1845, the Société de Protection des Animaux (SPA) just celebrated its 170th anniversary on December 2nd. They always needs donations, but they also need volunteers to help out at their shelters throughout France (the one in Paris is at 39 boulevard Berthier, 17th, where they are looking for full-time volunteers to manage the adoption office). Even if you just have time to come and walk, pet and give attention to the dogs and cats, it’s much appreciated. And of course, if you’re looking to adopt a pet, think of those which are abandoned or rescued from illegal puppy mills (which usually end up being sold at pet shops). Another site for pet adoption in France is Second Chance.
You can support the SPA by shopping for holiday gifts in their online Boutique Solidaire.
Oxfam needs volunteers for their two shops in Paris, in the 11th and 14th, apply online or in the shop.
You can also shop at the Oxfam bookstores in France at 61 rue Daguerre, 14th and 8 rue St-Amboise, 11th. They collect and sell books, CDs, and DVDs in French and English. There will be a special holiday sale on December 16th and 17th, see the Facebook page for more info.
10. Red Cross
The Croix Rouge not only regularly recruits volunteers and staff in France and abroad (“Je M’Engage”), they also offer regular training weekends in First Aid/CPR (Formation aux premiers secours) throughout France.
Emmaüs Paris always needs volunteers for help at their charity shops around Paris and the suburbs.
Shop at or donate items to the Emmaüs Thrift stores in and around Paris. There is a special Exceptional Opening on December 13th at 105 rue de Clignancourt, 10am-1pm.
For other volunteer opportunities searchable by theme, location, or skill, check out these excellent websites:
http://www.benenova.fr (check the Calendar for seasonal needs)
For specific information on helping the refugees in France read this article:
Winter is Coming: How Parisians are Helping the Refugees (and so can you!)
For those who speak no French
Your best bet for finding volunteer opportunities without speaking French is probably to contact Serve the City Paris, the American Church or the American Cathedral (specifically, they do an annual Love in a Box project). Looking ahead in January and February, the SOS Helpline in English is looking for volunteers. “Interested fluent-English speakers are invited to come along to ONE information session on EITHER 21 January, 27 January, or 3rd February to meet us and find out more about the organization.” Visit the website for more details. There are no other English-language groups in Paris that I know of who do regular aid work. If anyone knows of any, let me know!
Soup Kitchens in Paris
Here is the Mairie de Paris’ list of food distribution points in Paris for those in need, with hours and addresses.