where to volunteer

With the new year and its share of good resolutions, one may be tempted to want to get more involved. So if you would like to give some of your time as a volunteer, here is a list (not exhaustive) of 17 associations offering punctual or regular missions.

According to a study carried out, nearly 20 million French people carry out volunteer missions, including 13 million in associations alone. Young people, in particular, are becoming more and more involved in associations, in an effort to give more meaning to their daily lives.


– The Red Cross: Founded in 1859, the Red Cross intervenes throughout the world to carry out humanitarian missions for underprivileged populations or victims of conflicts. On a smaller scale, the French Red Cross relies on more than 60,000 volunteers to participate in food distribution and first aid operations for the most disadvantaged, or to run its vestiboutiques, places where families in difficulty can be welcomed and listened to.

– Oxfam France: Internationally, the NGO runs citizen mobilization and counter-lobbying campaigns with economic and political leaders. It also devotes itself to carrying out humanitarian actions and development projects in the poorest countries that are particularly affected by the consequences of global warming. In France, it has opened several solidarity stores and bookstores in Paris, Lille and Strasbourg. Its volunteers receive and sort donations of clothing and books made by individuals before selling them. They take advantage of this opportunity to raise public awareness of the themes it carries.

– WWF: Since 1961, the World Wildlife Fund has been working around the world to halt environmental degradation and build a world where man can live in greater harmony with nature. At the local level, it proposes specific missions that are easy to carry out, such as cleaning up natural sites or participating in awareness campaigns. The only small obligation is to attend introductory meetings before becoming a volunteer. These are held twice a month in Paris and once or twice a quarter in Lyon. But it is also possible to attend them remotely.

– Unicef: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is responsible for defending the rights of children around the world and acting for their protection. It gives priority to the most vulnerable, those who are victims of conflicts, natural disasters or exploitation. At a more local level, its volunteers carry out awareness-raising missions in schools to inform the youngest children about children’s rights. They also help organize communication events and run stands selling the association’s products.



– Les Restos du cœur: Since its foundation by the actor Coluche in 1985, the association has been working to help disadvantaged populations. As such, volunteer missions range from distributing meals during marauding events to collecting food and basic necessities, as well as providing day care in its centers. You can of course accompany cultural outings, give French lessons or provide school support to children from the most disadvantaged families.

– Entraides citoyennes: The association was founded in 2011 in Paris with the aim of providing assistance to homeless people and victims of exclusion. Its volunteers are called upon to participate in marauds, with distribution of clothing and meals, but also to teach French to immigrant populations and help them with their administrative procedures. It should be noted, however, that the organization only operates in the Paris region.

– Le Secours populaire : The association is involved in many areas, including food aid, keeping the poor in their homes and professional integration. As a volunteer, you will be able to welcome the most destitute in its reception centers as well as receive a child from an underprivileged family to give him or her a few days of vacation.

-Refettorio : If you live in Paris and have time to give, you can make a commitment to this solidarity restaurant, located in the crypt of the Madeleine church. Launched by the starred Italian chef Massimo Bottura, its mission is to use unsold food to offer every evening, from Monday to Friday, gastronomic meals to people in precarious situations. Volunteers are called upon to serve the dishes, clean the room, and even cook.

– The Salvation Army: Born in 1878 in England, the association was established in France in 1881, where it was recognized as being of public utility. Like Secours populaire, it relies on its volunteers to ensure the daily distribution of meals to the most vulnerable people. It also works for the integration of victims of social exclusion by helping them find jobs and training. Finally, it offers volunteers the opportunity to lead cultural workshops, which are real places of exchange between them and its beneficiaries.



– Le Refuge : For 16 years, the association has been providing support to young LGBT people aged 18 to 25, victims of homophobia and at odds with their families. It offers them a reassuring environment where they can rebuild their lives. Established in all the main cities in France, it relies on its nearly 400 volunteers to shelter and support this population in distress and to restore their confidence.

– Wake Up Café: This association started from a simple observation: access to culture enables prisoners to better reintegrate into working life on their release from prison and to limit recidivism. Volunteers are called upon to lead cultural and creative workshops or talk and exchange groups, with a view to helping participants discover a talent or simply open up to other perspectives. At the same time, Wake Up Café conducts awareness-raising campaigns among business leaders to change their perception of former prisoners.

– Association Aurore: Founded in 1871, it provides care and accommodation to people in precarious or excluded situations. Recognized as a public utility since 1875, it works in partnership with the State, the regions and local authorities to best carry out its missions. Volunteers are called upon to lead workshops, give French classes or take part in marauding activities. In 2018, it has also set up a program to promote the integration of refugees, and all its offers of assignments, whether one-off or regular, are posted on its website.

– Little Brothers of the Poor: Enabling isolated elderly people to recreate a sense of belonging is the mission that the association has been pursuing since its foundation in 1946. Its 13,000 volunteers make visits to the homes of the most fragile to bring them out of their isolation and welcome them to its vacation homes and places of accommodation. They also organize collective activities and events, with the same desire to break the loneliness of victims of exclusion.



– Entraide Scolaire Amicale: The objective of this association is to fight against failure at school. The volunteers commit themselves to provide school support to a child for at least one hour a week. By accompanying them and opening them up to the world, they also contribute to restoring their self-confidence. But they also work with parents to help them become more aware of the challenges of school work. And the missions are assigned according to the volunteers’ place of work or home.

– Petits Princes: Since November 1987, the Petits Princes association has been working with sick children. Its role is to enable them to realize one or more of their dreams, while adapting to the rhythm of their treatment and hospitalization. There are several types of volunteer missions, ranging from the preparation and realization of patients’ dreams to the setting up of communication and public awareness tools for the general public. Be careful, however, it requires a real commitment in the duration of its volunteers.


– Utopia 56: The Utopia 56 association was created in Brittany in 2016, with the aim of providing a framework for volunteer initiatives in the Calais jungle. Since then, it has multiplied its actions with migrants and refugees in several major cities (Calais, Lille, Paris, Rennes, Tours and Toulouse). Maraudes, help with the distribution of meals or sleeping bags, legal and social support are just some of the missions it entrusts to its 12,000 volunteers.

– Cimade: Present in metropolitan France and overseas, the Inter-Movement Committee for Evacuees defends the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees. It welcomes no less than 100,000 people a year in its offices and acts in administrative detention centers to inform the men and women held there about their rights. It is always looking for volunteers to accompany these refugees in their legal procedures, to pass on their knowledge of French culture and language, or to participate in communication campaigns. And for more clarity on what it is possible to do, it lists on its website its most urgent volunteer missions.

Community organizations Family: more than just service centers

In the many community-based Family Community Organizations (FCOs) that exist, approximately 90,000 families find advice, solutions or help each year. Responding to the needs of destitute, dissatisfied or isolated parents, these organizations prove to be more than just service centers, but living environments.

The situations that lead families to a community organization Famille are varied. “Recently, a young mother took out a bottle in a CLSC and was shown the door, in the name of promoting breastfeeding. Another parent of a restless little boy was summoned three weeks after the start of kindergarten to be told that he needed to consult as soon as possible – in the private sector – when he could not afford it and the school offered no other solution. Aside from waiting lists, closed doors and unaffordable consultations, these families, among many others, have found in the OCFs a place where “they do not feel judged.

The action of the OCFs can be broken down into several ways, the first level of action being support for “the exercise of the parental role”. Their credo is to give families weapons, the power to act and to commit themselves, in order to counter a trend that deprives certain families of their means of action. Indeed, Louisane Côté underlines the fragility of certain families in the face of the health system or society. “Being a parent means continually receiving criticism from all the professionals who work with children. And when a professional takes a critical look at parents with few resources, they are powerless to deal with it. This normative view prevents them from feeling confident about their child’s development. However, she recalls, “there are multiple ways to educate children, different cultures and different living conditions. And not all children are equally adaptable. “Workshops on parenting, development, budgeting and separation are designed to help these parents become “actors in their child’s development.

Collective Action

At the same time, OCFs also provide a means for collective action. When several families are experiencing the same difficulties, the OCF allows them to come together to find solutions and respond to the issues they face. This may involve approaching the municipality to improve the safety of a neighbourhood or the health of a park, to develop the construction of social housing or to improve their living conditions. “We work with a social development objective,” says Louisane Côté. While many families are struggling to fill their grocery baskets, some OCFs have found partners to provide food or organize collective kitchens so that the families concerned leave with three or four healthy meals at home. This is particularly the case at the Maison de quartier de Fabreville in Laval, where a food bank, set up in partnership with local farmers, helps about 100 families every two weeks. “When this Maison de quartier was created 31 years ago, I never thought I would be able to help out with food. But today, 21% of the neighbourhood’s population is below the poverty line and we don’t have enough food to meet the needs,” explains the Maison’s director, Diane Vallée.

To break the isolation and give families confidence, the organization offers above all a living environment: for mothers, young people or toddlers, the Maison offers daily help, a place to rest and relax. A daycare that welcomes the little ones while mom participates in a workshop, meetings where life experiences can be shared without complexes, creative or motor skills activities, cooking sessions for teens, often torn between junk food and anorexia, apple outings or childless restaurants are opportunities to forge ties that go beyond the formal setting. Parents are encouraged to become volunteers, facilitate workshops, supervise activities or share experiences, and can become actively involved in the organization. “We don’t want them to come in as consumers of services, but rather as participants in a living environment. »

Service Relay

In this way, FBOs can take over from services such as the CLSC or the DPJ through a personal approach, especially with mothers who have difficulty communicating with social services. “It is not a CLSC worker who will sit down with these marginalized mothers and take them by the hand to help them. In our living environment, we have the opportunity to do that. We manage to create links through playful activities, walks or moments of relaxation. And, a few months later, these mothers participate in early stimulation workshops or collective kitchens,” continues Diane Vallée. Another challenge is that of integrating immigrant families, which is complicated by the language barrier. This is a new phenomenon at the Maison de Fabreville, but a very real one, since 47% of the families today come from cultural communities. “Many mothers drop off their children but do not stay for the activities. “To break the ice, the counsellors use discreet but progressive approaches, such as making eye contact or helping the child undress, before gradually getting them to participate in the workshops.

Fragile, single-parent families

The Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec (FAFMRQ) urges caution about early prevention programs that over-target single-parent families, especially those with low incomes. Even if they start out with good intentions, they can prove harmful, in the end, to the populations they are intended to help.

In 2000, for example, the government announced $22 million over six years to fund a program for young single mothers to prevent social adjustment difficulties among children by encouraging healthy lifestyles. In 2008, a new fund of $400 million over ten years was created to promote the development of children aged 0 to 5 years in vulnerable situations, with a view to intervening from early childhood and even during pregnancy.

But for the Federation, these “ferocious early prevention” programs, developed by “experts who explain that if a child is not stimulated at this age, he will be a dropout and a delinquent,” help to establish a correlation between these difficult family situations and the inability to raise a child, explains Laurence Lagouarde, Research and Communications Officer. “The assumption is that a single mother is not able to raise her child properly. »

The result created is systematic stigmatization, to the extent that single-parent families have to “live with prejudice on a daily basis”. There is constant talk of “vulnerable” populations, “at-risk” families and “intergenerational transmission of poverty” as if it were a genetic disease. In fact, the term “single parent” has become synonymous with future offenders, to the point that some people refuse to use this term. “There is an enormous amount of work to be done on how these families are viewed. »

Kindergarten 4-year-olds are no exception to the rule: intended especially for so-called vulnerable families, they run the risk, according to the Federation, of creating school ghettos and sticking a devaluing label on the children who attend them.


Helping the needy

Several individuals and associations are committed to fighting against the precariousness and exclusion of people by supporting numerous associative projects, with the following objectives :

– Helping families and people in great precariousness

– Accompanying people on the street, without a fixed abode

– Helping people in prostitution

– Supporting people with disabilities

– Accompanying people who are ill or at the end of life

– Supporting people with addictions

– Welcoming refugees and migrants

Helping families and people in great precariousness

Families and individuals in great precarious situations may find themselves unable to meet their most basic needs, especially food.

Several associations are mobilizing to come to their aid and provide them with food support. Various actions are carried out, including the management of solidarity grocery stores to provide basic foodstuffs every week to people in difficulty, the organization of snacks and solidarity meals, and the distribution of meal packages during the “Summer Food Relief” operation.

The association to these projects not only provides necessary food aid, but also helps to restore social ties, thanks to exchange time with the beneficiaries.

Accompanying homeless people on the street

Many initiatives are being set up to combat the spiral that, following the loss of a job or a family break-up, deprives fragile people of resources and housing and leads them to settle permanently in precarious conditions.

Walks and day care

The organization of marauds makes it possible to reach out to street people, in their area of life, and to establish, through regular exchanges, a lasting contact with them.

The setting up of day care centers, spaces for conviviality, hygiene and care, encourages the creation of links with each person taken in, an essential step towards personalized support.

Dynamic activities and stays

In order to help homeless people or people in prostitution to get moving, they are offered dynamization activities. Thanks to cultural outings, integration workshops, courses in French as a foreign language or art therapy activities, these excluded people can gradually build a reintegration project. In addition, the proposal of breakaway stays, a time outside of Paris at odds with the daily environment, prepares homeless people for a return to housing and helps people in prostitution to regain a social link. Thus, the Fratello project has enabled several thousand people who have lived or are living on the streets and who come from all over Europe to meet in Rome for moments of sharing and exchange, enabling them to move forward in their journey of socio-professional reintegration.

The holiday season can be particularly difficult for people in precarious situations. In order to allow them to break their isolation and experience a festive moment in a warm family atmosphere, several associations organize Christmas meals.

Material support and accommodation

In order to provide material assistance to people in a situation of exclusion, associations helping the disadvantaged offer in particular:

– a warm welcome for dinner, bed and breakfast during the winter period through the organization of the operation “Winter Solidarity”.

– the provision of lockers allowing them to undertake administrative procedures, to look for or even exercise a professional activity without the risk of having their personal belongings stolen

These different actions also aim to create links with people in difficulty and to promote, thanks to a fraternal and friendly welcome, their path to reintegration.

Helping people in prostitution

Sensitive to this problem, the organizations support associative projects aimed at accompanying people in prostitution towards a new life project.

As with the homeless, assistance to people in prostitution (men and women) involves both the organization of marauding and the provision of reception areas, a space where they can meet, feel at home, benefit from support by social workers as well as dynamization activities.

The creation of an integration project aimed at training young men in building trades and the launch of a Center for young women offering sewing, craft and cooking workshops, in particular, enable these prostitutes to initiate a personal reconstruction process in the form of an individualized project to then integrate socially and professionally.

For women who are victims of prostitution networks and trafficking, it is necessary to be able to benefit from a secure accommodation as a first step towards exiting prostitution. A shelter, the only one of its kind in Paris, offers them accommodation (emergency or long-term) as well as support, with the aim of assisting them in initiating a process of change and building a professional project.


Supporting people with disabilities

Foundations under the aegis of the Foundation support various initiatives for the daily accompaniment and integration of disabled people.

The creation of residential homes for young adults with a mental disability or places to welcome and live for those suffering from autistic disorders enables these people to benefit from a home where they can feel at home, while increasing their autonomy, promoting access to care and enabling them to benefit from support.

The issue of aging in relation to disability represents a challenge that is prompting initiatives such as the creation, within living homes, of a reception and support space dedicated to the aging elderly.

For the youngest, disabled or autistic children, multiple projects are being developed to enable them to attend school as normally as possible.

Supporting people suffering from addictions

For people addicted to drugs or alcohol, reception, listening but also energizing activities and break-up stays are necessary to free themselves from addiction, rebuild and reintegrate.

In order to help young drug addicts but also people with alcohol addiction

Accompanying people who are ill or at the end of life

Many people aging without resources or suffering from infirmities have no one to support them and find themselves confronted with loneliness and precariousness. To help them, associations finance actions in favor of dependent and destitute elderly people.

For example, it has contributed to the reconstruction of “My Home”, a Home for the Dependent Elderly (EHPAD) belonging to the Little Sisters of the Poor. In a warm and family setting, destitute elderly people are welcomed and accompanied until the end of their lives.

Welcoming refugees and migrants

In recent years, several associations have implemented actions to help migrants and refugees, particularly families who are victims of conflicts in the Middle East.

Several oraganizations support projects whose objective is not only to provide these people in great distress with emergency aid (reception, checkroom, distribution of meals…) but above all to accompany them to promote their social and professional integration (thanks to French courses, psychological support, administrative and legal assistance…).