“As a team, we had to be very reactive, and put thing into place to maintain the relationship.
Our goal was to figure out a way to stay in touch with parents and children alike.
Hello, I am Noémie Thiesson, and I’m the manager of the family support center in Vaulx-en-Velin, ok the outskirts of Lyon, in France. It’s a place where families can meet, and share experiences, and it’s a support system for parents. Our objective is to welcome families, especially those in difficult situations.”
How have you managed during the COVID 19 crisis?
“We’ve invented various types of support to maintain this relationship. One of the first thing we did was to introduce “listeners”, who are specifically assigned to a family, and who thus have fairly frequent contact by phone to check up on everyone.
The other type of support we managed to set up quite quickly is a WhatsApp group, that now includes almost 70 families. The aim of the group is to maintain a vibrant community dimension.
Each day our team has been involved by creating simple, inexpensive recipes, filming themselves and setting themselves little creative challenges, telling bedtime stories. It’s also another way of keeping up the daily routine. We also kept celebrating birthdays. It is also very important!
The WhatsApp group is doing incredibly well. Today, we get over 200 notifications every day, so we need to manage this, but our families share on this group some really precious things. They are fully engaged, in every way.
Education support also has been on our radar. It can be very difficult in a family where the parents don’t speak French well, or when 7 people live in a 50m2 apartment.”
How are things working out for the families you are helping?
“One of our major concerns when the lockdown started was having to house families who were on the street. And actually for those families, this period of lockdown allowed them to get some rest and have some breathing space. It was hard for them to admit it, but this period of lockdown, when you’re in a hotel, having a place for yourself with your children allows oneself to rest.
Again, we had to work with our local partners to see how we could support these families financially, or go shopping with them and their children for basic necessities.
When you’re talking face to face with someone, you can see that person’s expression. When you’re on the phone it’s a completely different relationship. You have to query, ask questions… all your senses are augmented, it’s been a real challenge, but I think that we’ve managed to maintain the bond, and the families are still just as engaged.
Something that’s been really helpful for us is our connection with our Generali godfather Benoît (Nevin) who is fantastic. I find it so valuable to have partners who, without waiting, can just call up, and say ‘we hope everything is OK, we are thinking of you’.”
What are your principal needs, and those of the families you support?
“At the moment what we need is to respond as best we can to the needs of families, parents and children, to experience and share this period of deconfinement collectively, and to put everyone in a position where they are a little bit accountable. We are all going through this unique experience, and we need to find solutions together.”