As the windows and streets of Paris are decked once again with festive lights, we can’t help but run through our to-do list in preparation for the big days ahead. There are feasts to be planned and gifts to be bought for those on your list. But why not make an extra effort to spread the holiday cheer beyond family and friends?
You can brighten someone’s day in the city of light through the gift of caring. To help get in the Christmas spirit, we rounded up some of the most trusted and popular charities in Paris. Some of these holiday charities are also accessible world-wide, so no matter which country you call home, you can still get involved.
Love in a Box (Paris Only)
This effort is led by the American Cathedral in Paris and benefits many of the kids overlooked this holiday season. Supplies are collected according to personal lists given to the organization and are then wrapped and sent out to be delivered. Although the collection and wrapping portion of this year’s drive are already finished, they will be continuing to do “box checking” through the 9th of December. You, your friends and your family still have a few days to get to the church to lend a hand – and they certainly need it, with almost 3,200 boxes being distributed last year! Sign up HERE. The program is non-religious and open to all.
There are many ways to help the growing number of refugees stuck in limbo in France or living off the streets of Paris. From donating clothes, food, blankets and supplies to collecting and delivering aid, several expatriate groups are actively involved and needs your help.
Compassion Without Borders, a student humanitarian organization created by student Ben Levaton at the American School in Paris, holds regular donation and fundraising drives. They’ve set up an Amazon Wish List where you can order needed supplies, which volunteers then deliver directly to refugee camps around Paris.
France and Beyond began as a Facebook thread created by expat Kathryn Dobson in southwest France and now has a network throughout the country. It organizes collects, storage, delivery and volunteers to refugee camps in Paris and Calais.
Paris Ground Support, created by Heather and Kelvin Young, dedicate their life to refugees and run an extraordinary aid service out of their van running weekly loads of emergency supplies from Calais to Dunkirk and throughout Paris.
Les Restos du Coeur (Paris only)
The popular Restaurant 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 has grown to cover a broad range of aid for those less fortunate, spanning from housing and job support to even legal aid. Fill out your contact information HERE and join hundreds of your fellow Parisians in giving back to the community we are so lucky to call home.
Just like Les Restos de Coeur, Serve the City (STC) offers a network of support to those 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 now started a Saturday morning breakfast distribution. On Friday evenings, people of all ages come together to package food donated by local restaurants and cafés. Don’t forget they also need help in their regular weekly food distribution!
One of France’s renowned humanitarian organizations is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders. MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that 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.
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”
– Author Unknown