Being a Peace Artisan can be as simple as opening a door for someone and accompanying them as they walk through it. Chantal does exactly that.
Chantal is accompanying Medhi, an Afghan asylum seeker who recently arrived in France. She is the accompaniment referent for JRS’s France Welcome project, or as she puts it, “the red thread of the first nine months of accompaniment.” Through her role, she got to know the people she accompanies and their host families. But on a deeper level, this type of accompaniment allows to “realize the luck one has and, realize, you can share it with people, who are in a situation of great vulnerability,” says Chantal.
Chantal’s objective is “to promote at the same time finding roots within a family, but also develop connections” for Medhi and the other people she accompanies. “It is also being there when there are questions about the future without always being able to answer, but in every case sharing the moments of doubt, questioning or of not knowing, but doing it together” she says.
This journey of accompaniment is not always easy. According to Chantal, “the main challenge is to remain open and not letting previous experiences make you forget that each encounter is a new adventure. Each person you accompany is different with their particularities, vulnerabilities, and strengths. It is also allowing oneself to be taking into the transformation that the accompanied person is going through.”
Offering a home to people seeking asylum allows them to benefit from a period of respite in the middle of a difficult journey of exile, and to better integrate by allowing a reciprocal meeting. On top of the accommodation, people receive individualised support with a holistic approach always centred on the human experience.
“I met a lot of French people; I learnt the language” says Medhi when talking about his experience. He also pointed out about the advantages of having a referent like Chantal accompanying him throughout the programme: “It is really good for me because I see you each week. We speak a lot of French. Whenever I need help, I can ask.”
The Welcome Project aims at offering free accommodation for up to nine months to a person whose asylum application is currently being processed. Through this project, JRS France has provided shelter for more than 4.354 migrants with over 42.121 overnight stays since 2016. This would not have been possible without people like Chantal, who are taking a concrete step to welcoming people like Medhi into their communities.