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In Poland, elderly helps the elderly

An article of press agency: France press from proposes a focus on the action of “les petits frères des Pauvres” in Poland, and a report about the Poznan implantation.

Home visits are organized in order to keep in touch with isolated people and helps elderly affected by lack of autonomy. “I’ve lived alone since my daughter died following a sudden illness 6 years ago” said Janina Kalisza, 80 years old, who suffers from partially-sighted, diabetes and hypertension. Maria tytula, a senior and volunteers of the organization came to get over and leave his loneliness. “We make shopping together, we walk, we go to the cinema, to the doctor, we complete each other” said Maria, highlighting that Janina never went out when she met her. Those two women became almost inseparable; they regularly met over the last years. “I try to make her life more enjoyable by spending time with her” said Maria. But she admits that she can’t do any more physical efforts to help her with exhausting tasks.

Since the organization of the little brothers of the Poor was found by Armand Marquiset, the organization is presents in Germany, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, USA and Canada. Since 2002, Poland is the eighth and the latest country that entered in the International Federation.

The association is present in three cities: Warsaw, Poznan and Lublin. “Before the entry of Poland into the European union, many volunteers get trained in France”. So, in the early 2000’s, it is the French association who wanted us to be part of the international federation of les petits frères “said Anna Kosikowska, president of the association in Poznan. She spent five month training in Lille, Dunkerque and Paris. During the early years after their foundation, the polish association was supported by French companies.

In 2006, they become autonomous. In Poznan the association’s project are financed by the city up to 80.000 zlotys per years (20.000 Euros). “This money is used to pay our employees, to finance cultural excursions as well as important project” said Anna. They carried for a while an exchange plan for vacation with the France but it unfortunately not succeeds. “Transport is too far complicated to organize. We have to keep in mind that these are elderly and such travel is very tiring for them. However, we are in a permanent contact with our French counterparts who send us all their knowledge in term of training” said Anna.

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Rosemarie, a volunteer in Chicago for 10 months

Further to an internship at the Chapter Paris Saint-Maur, Rosemarie went during 10 months in Chicago as "volunteer" in the biggest Chapter of the states. Here is a feedback of her experience.

I was determined to go abroad after my studies of Advisor Social and Family Economics (social worker) but I didn’t know exactly where. So, I caught the opportunity to make my end report of study in Saint-Maur Chapter of the little brother of the Poor. Thus I heard that there were other organizations abroad.

After exchanging my motivations with volunteer’s manager from Chicago, I decided to embark on the adventure. I was going to volunteer for 10 months at Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly in Chicago. Freshly graduated, I bought my plane ticket to Chicago.

A windy city: very welcome! I lived in the associations with other volunteers. After an adaptation time (including language skills), I found my rhythm. The association's mission was to overcome isolation of the elderly. I had various missions. Indeed, every month, I visited twice 25 people who suffer from isolation. We could eat together, go to the museum, walk...  

I lived a very rich human experience, I even became attached to people I visited. They told me about their lives, their fears, their joys. Every weekend, the association organized friendly meals. I was driving people to the festival, after that, I was charged to bringing them back home. During the week, the association organized workshops (computers, cinema, coffee, arts ...). I was responsible for the film workshop on Friday. It was a great opportunity to have lunch together and watch a movie. The association - but the city too- is animated by the party: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter). So much time used to share and learn about his table neighbor.

Before my trip, I had the idea that Chicago was a cold city, industrial and unwelcoming. Is it really cold? Yes! I even had the opportunity to be present during a blizzard (a huge snowstorm) that blocked the city during two days. But be reassured, the summer is rather hot. People are they unfriendly? Not at all, I found people very friendly and open. Nevertheless, I was quite shocked by the segregation of 'white' and 'black'.  People live in community.

The city is also warm and inviting. I really enjoyed myself. I remember the good humor of my fellow volunteers, especially the temperature and all smiles of people I met. I am very happy to have lived such rich experience. I hope one day I could return to Chicago.



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