Christmas is the season of giving — and what better way to give than by volunteering or donating to a charity which helps people in need? Many children, women and men may not have shelter to keep them warm, no family or means of support, and are struggling just to survive cold winter nights on the city streets. But, there are many concrete ways for you to help.
We’ve highlighted some of the non-profit organizations in Paris which could use hands-on volunteers or donations, whether financial or in-kind. Some also accept contributions online, so no matter where you are sitting, there’s a tangible way to give the ultimate gift — by showing compassion to someone less fortunate than you.
Les Restos du Coeur (Paris only)
The popular Restaurants of the Heart (how cute is that?) is much more than your average soup kitchen. Founded by a beloved French comedian named Coluche, the association runs soup kitchens and grocery distribution centers around France, but has also provides a broad range of support services spanning from housing and job support to legal aid for the underprivileged. Fill out your contact information HERE and join hundreds of fellow Parisians in giving back to the community we are lucky enough to call home.
Just like Les Restos du Coeur, Serve the City (STC) offers a network of support to people in need. Spanning from Hungary to Brazil, Serve the City is a global volunteer effort that helps the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers, the elderly, the disabled, children in need, and victims of abuse. The Paris “hub” has a S.A.V.E. program that trains volunteers to help with their activities and events.
One of the largest charity groups in France, Emmaüs has thrift shops and collection points around Paris, including over 20,000 “Relais” containers where you can drop off your used clothing, shoes, or small household items. You can also make a financial donation online or sign up to volunteer (their website is only in French).
Helping Displaced Persons in Need
Since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, over 100,000 refugees fleeing the war have arrived in France. There was an almost immediate outpouring of solidarity and assistance from communities, businesses, associations, and networks of individuals. A large majority of refugees from Ukraine are women and children, who are particularly vulnerable. Whether you can donate clothes, blankets, money or your time, here are some of the local and international groups which could use your help.
Les Mamans de Paris Pour l’Ukraine is a local, volunteer-run organization that started within weeks after the invasion by co-founders Karolina Bloch and Margaux Lemoîne, both Parisian mothers who felt they needed to do more to assist the increasingly urgent refugee situation. With an appeal through social media, they quickly found a community of Parisian moms who formed an active network that France 24 described as “practical and very efficient.” Les Mamans have collected mass donations of basic necessities, food, clothing, and medicine for both Ukrainian refugees in Paris as well as those still in Ukraine. You can help by volunteering your time, making a financial donation, or donating supplies like medicine, sleeping bags, warm clothes, candles, lanterns, etc.
Other major global organizations which accept financial donations and volunteers to help with refugees and other persons in need include: Croix Rouge (French Red Cross), UNICEF France, which focuses on helping children, and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), which also has its own global portal for volunteers.
One of France’s most internationally-renowned humanitarian organizations is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders. This international, independent, medical humanitarian organization delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. Thousands of healthcare professionals provide their skills and time to help people in 71 countries. With so many conflicts and sickness plaguing our world today, MSF work is never over and needs private donations to support humanitarian action and keep people alive.
With chapters around the globe, Room to Read believes that “world change starts with educated children.” Its children’s literacy program has trained thousands of librarians and distributed millions of books, while its girls’ education program enables girls to complete secondary school with the life skills to succeed academically and beyond. The Paris chapter hosts regular events and fundraisers, such as Cooks for Books, a chance to prepare a traditional festive meal with Tibetan refugees, or the Spring Lunch, a benefit at a chic restaurant featuring well-known authors. For donation and volunteer opportunities, visit their WEBSITE.
Over the past few years, the ongoing problem of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence against women has finally started to receive increased attention. Whether you’ve experienced these things yourself or want to support those that have, the Maison des Femmes de Paris in the 12th arrondissement is a safe space to find solidarity and support. Self-defense workshops, legal advice, film screenings and support groups are some of the many activities they offer. To find out how you can get involved, visit their WEBSITE.
For other short-term or long-term volunteering opportunities throughout the year, check out this excellent list of local volunteer opportunities on the Secrets of Paris website. Or consider giving some of your time to INSPIRELLE — we rely on volunteers to keep keep our community association running and we’d love to hear from you!