In Lyon, we want to “bring a little happiness now” to Ukrainian refugee children.

A 5-year-old blonde builds a tower with a young girl in an orange sweatshirt. Without a word, they exchange stones, laughing. It’s like being in a day-care center, while right behind the blonde’s mother is filling out the paperwork to be able to stay in France. We are in a temporary protection reception center that opened this Monday in Villeurbanne, where the administrative procedures for refugees are centralized.

150 people per day, almost exclusively Ukrainian women and children, are invited to follow a well-marked route from box to box: preparation of applications for residence permits (valid for 6 months and extendable for up to 3 years), national education ( children can only go to school if the parents have a temporary residence permit), Pôle Emploi, visit to the doctor… Everyone waits quietly, although the wait is lengthened by the translation.

Smile to break the language barrier

A tall, bearded man dressed in a Red Cross vest warms up the atmosphere by handing out bottled water, candy and winks. François has traveled 600 km from Agen to help his colleagues “give what you have to give on a whim. There’s a language barrier, but with a smile and a few jokes, everyone gets along, he says. These people are lost, but problems only exist when you think they are problems. So if you don’t think about them, there aren’t any more, it’s only natural! »

Marjolaine, a Red Cross volunteer, also welcomes women and children with common sense guidance. “Like Bellecombe Grammar School, we have set up a room full of games for children for community service volunteers to play with,” she explains. It frees parents because spending a whole day here with hungry, thirsty or bored kids can be hell. There you can fill out the forms. »

A new job for young people doing community service

The young volunteers sitting on the playmat wear orange sweatshirts with the logo of Unis-Cités, the organization that brings together citizen services. Among them Anaïs, 18, who has been registered for an 8-month mission since November. “I wanted to get involved in the community, and community service was an option for me,” she says. “We were asked by the Red Cross to come here on Monday. So far we have accompanied the association ASET (Aide à la Scholarisation des Enfants Gypsies), which has allowed us to gain experience with the children. At this center, “the most important thing is to be there for them to have a good time. They probably want to forget the rest for a bit and live their lives as children,” she says.

Judith, 24, took a gap year after completing her master’s degree in occupational medicine. She has just arrived at the center and is looking forward to taking care of these happy children who are very focused on their constructions. “I don’t think they realize it, they show a certain complacency, they just seem happy to be spending some time with us,” she notes.

François agrees: “The children see their parents, their loved ones around them, so everything is fine, everything is going very well. They are in the same situation as our grandparents who experienced war situations. After that, they will grow and build their happiness as they do. Well, might as well bring them some luck now. »

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