It’s the rentrée in France and there is that new year feeling in the air. Here we look back on 2021 so far.
What have been your highlights during the last year?
Staying open was the biggest! But we have had many more things to celebrate, too. We have received generous donations from Bon Coeur, the International School of Toulouse, Message, the Mission and Outreach Committee of the American Church in Paris and readers of The Connexion.
We have also been lucky enough to have donations in kind, including the services of an IT specialist who worked with us to create a new website. We are so happy with our new look.
Plus, our listeners were very touched and happy to receive a gift hamper from the Embassy of Ireland with a special message this St. Patrick’s Day:
“As a token of gratitude for the support that SOS Help and its volunteers provide to Irish citizens, the Embassy would like to donate a hamper of quality Irish foods and goodies for your listeners and volunteers to share and enjoy as a treat during their break. This is just a small token in thanks of all your hard work and to bring some Irish St. Patrick’s Day cheer.”
Why do you think that after nearly 40 years SOS Help continues to be important to English speakers in France?
SOS Help is one of the few places English speakers can open up to talk over their problems and fears. Over the years many friends and acquaintances have mentioned they have called us at some point. We have also had some amazing listeners over the years, who have given their time and energy, and have found listening an enriching experience.
Can you tell us where the funding for SOS Help’s work comes from?
Our funding has always been based on donations from the English-speaking community, from book sales and donations. We have also been lucky to hold some events at the British Ambassador’s Residence courtesy of our Honorary Patron. For the last two years we have been unable to hold any book sales but we have been so overwhelmed by the generosity of the community.
How is this money spent?
Our expenditure is quite simple: the rent for our listening post, the telephone line, the services of the mental health professionals who run our training, and advertising.
Apart from donating money how else can individuals or organisations help SOS Help?
Spreading the word would be a great way of helping us – and helping those who may need our service. And if you have skills and experience that you think might be useful to us, get in touch. We are always looking for volunteers, whether as listeners or with marketing, fundraising or other types of skills.
How would you like to see SOS help develop in the coming years?
For several years we have been interested in running a message or chat service of some kind. This has not been possible yet mainly because we don’t have enough listeners. If we had more listeners, we could also offer extra hours to the service, another item on the “wish” list.