2021 Summer Youth Construction Camp in France

Photo above: Summer youth construction camp, Méry-sur-Oise, France 2021 © ATD Fourth World

By Patrick Duval, ATD Fourth World Ally

This past summer, Patrick Duval managed a youth construction camp at ATD’s international centre just outside Paris. He describes a rewarding week with “young people who ask questions”. In addition to helping out with building projects, young people met with ATD members working at the centre and learned more about poverty. Cooking together, volleyball, and evening conversation around the campfire were all highlights, according to feedback from participants.

For more information on ATD’s youth construction camps, contact: .

A week of work, learning, and fun

As I read participants’ feedback after ATD’s 2021 summer youth construction camps, I found myself very moved. The young people who joined us for the week seemed so excited about meeting new people and sharing a rewarding time together.

In their comments, many told us they really enjoyed learning manual skills: gardening, metal working, painting, and woodworking. Among other projects, the group built a bike shelter and put up a fence. And the young people got free rein to let their creativity run wild, which explains why the bathroom walls are now adorned with sea animals!

ATD summer construction camps are a chance to spend time at the organisation’s international centre, located just outside Paris, France. In meetings with many who work there, the group learned about ATD’s work around the world to overcome poverty, with a particular focus on human dignity.

Throughout the year, the international centre hosts people from all over the world, including those living in poverty, who come for training, meetings, and workshops. ATD is particularly proud that the centre reflects a commitment to creating beautiful things without spending a lot of money. Working in a sustainable way, yet always with an eye to beauty, was something the young people found very meaningful.

Of course there was plenty of time for fun as well. When work stopped for the day, all sorts of activities, games, and lively conversation would always start right up.

Diversity and Openness

Meeting so many terrific people was one of the many reasons I feel fortunate to have been involved in the construction camp. The group of young people, ages 18 to 35, was quite diverse. Even our management team reflected ATD’s international diversity. As we planned and ran the camp, I found myself working closely with people from Senegal, Haiti, Guatemala, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, France, and the Philippines.

Camp participants noted how remarkably kind everyone was. Jean Venard, an ATD Volunteer Corps member helping with the camp, explained why. Years working alongside people who always get laughed at and treated like nothing, he said, really teaches ATD members the importance of patience and respect.

Bernard Jarhling, a current Activist who had lived in Noisy le Grand, the homeless camp where ATD began many years ago, spoke with the group. “We have to be open to the unknown”, he said, “and to people whose lives are very complicated.” For many participants, the construction camps were eye opening in a number of ways. For example, participants met with Claire, a young Volunteer Corps member who really values ATD Fourth World’s commitment to working at the grass roots. Participants were quite intrigued and Claire got lots of questions.

Like-minded group bonds over fun and shared interests

While some seemed at home right away, others were more reserved at first. However, activities such as late afternoon volleyball and cooking together eventually made everyone feel part of the group. Even self-described introverts opened up with excitement about what they wanted to change in the world.

Everyone there seemed to be interested in finding a way of life where all people have value and can be who they are.

There were intense discussions while washing dishes or around the nightly camp fire. Lamine, a Volunteer Corps member from Senegal, introduced us to activities that build trust and confidence. Even the camp cat, whom everyone loved, was a significant part of the group’s time together.

We believe in young people

ATD Fourth World believes in young people. We love engaging with people who ask important questions about the world, people who want to learn and to understand social justice issues more thoroughly. These days, so many young people are paying attention to all the injustice in the world—from climate change to animal rights. Their commitment to a wide range of issues and their faith in humanity inspires our own work to make the world a better place and, of course, to trust each other.

This summer’s construction camp also inspired us to try new ways of meeting and engaging with young people. However, we also plan to continue holding construction camps in the future. We invite anyone interested in helping out and learning more about ATD to join us next summer for a fun and engaging time in France.

Summer youth construction camp, Méry-sur-Oise, 2021 © ATD Fourth World
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