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, asylum seekers, the elderly, the disabled, children in need, and victims of abuse. The Paris “hub” has teamed up with Prêt à Manger to organize a breakfast distribution on Friday mornings. For more information, check out their MEETUP PAGE or email them HERE.
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).
Since the refugee camps in northern France were cleared in 2016, increasing numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing war and oppression have been camping out on the inhospitable streets of Paris. Surviving through the cold and wet winter is especially brutal when you have nothing but the clothes on your back. Displaced children and women 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.
Paris Refugee Ground Support is a local, volunteer-run aid service which delivers weekly van loads of emergency supplies to refugees throughout Paris. It is supported by a number of community groups as well as donations from the UK and around Europe. You can help by volunteering your time, making a financial donation through their Go Fund Me page, or donating supplies like sleeping bags, tents, blankets and warm clothes that can help someone survive another cold night on the streets.
Help Refugees runs a big aid operation in Northern France alongside a number of other partners. Their teams provide blankets, hygiene kits, clothes, food, water and women and children’s services to an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 refugees sleeping rough in the forests of Calais and Dunkirk. You can register to volunteer or make a donation through their website.
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 year, the #metoo movement has shined a much-needed light on the ongoing problem of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence against women. 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 the Volunteering page of our I-List for non-profit organizations which need English speakers to lend a helping hand. You can also check out this excellent list of local volunteer opportunities on the Secrets of Paris website.