How did the Secours populaire react to the health crisis?
Schools, canteens, study and work centres, public services all closed, and the SPF decided to roll out its solidarity in the form of moral and material support to people struggling with lockdown restrictions and invited them to meet local SPF volunteers. With the Médecins du SPF (SPF doctors), 1,300 of the association’s centres went out to provide unconditional support to individuals and families who simply didn’t have what they needed to cope with the situation. Meanwhile, the SPF launched an urgent appeal for funding support so it could respond effectively, without allowing despair or anarchy to take hold. This approach was rolled out all over France; in urban, suburban and rural areas, thousands of people stepped up to lend a hand to SPF teams, showing dedication, volunteerism and outstanding human generosity. Once again, the association rose up to help in a time of crisis.
How did the Secours populaire adapt to this unprecedented situation?
Food aid was provided with contactless delivery; parcels were handed out to households rather than being made available using a self-service system, distributions were made outdoors in the manner of click and collects or drives. Before it received free batches of personal protective equipment, the SPF purchased what it needed. For access to holidays, the federations created the Journées bonheurs (happiness days), small group outings within local areas. To provide moral, educational and legal support, volunteer animators-collectors made contact and provided support by telephone, even while lockdown restrictions were in place. Academic tutoring was provided. The same goes for the life of the association; contacts were made with donors by telephone and video to respect the decisions made by the organising bodies.
The association played an important role as a goad to public authorities during the pandemic. What does that really mean?
The SPF took action on the ground while keeping public authorities up to speed on the situation, so they were fully aware about what was happening all around France, every single day. The precise details transmitted in real time to public authorities and respecting procedure, without precedence, helped to inform the decision-making process. The decisions made and the speed of their implementation were verified on the ground. As information was exchanged between SPF leaders in the field, then sent back to public authorities at all levels, potentially unsuitable actions were avoided or could be corrected.
More than 12 months later, what is the situation today? What challenges are still to be met?
We are facing a tidal wave of poverty, all over the planet. Access to quality food – because you’re only as healthy as the food you eat – access to digital technology, knowing how to use it properly and being aware of its risks, access to education as well as independence, the right to discover the world, to live without having to leave your country, or be welcomed with dignity when you have had to escape: these are the challenges that require widespread, lasting and global solidarity. Our hope is driven by the mass mobilisation of the civilian population, whether individual or collective, that was seen during