Understanding, dialogue and assistance... Sponsorship in three life lessons with José
Our employees are doing their bit along with us to help promote education. These include José Sebbah, who joined Groupe ADP 28 years ago as an electrician. Today a buildings expert at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport’s terminals 1 and 3, for several months now he has also been a sponsor of the CLÉ association. Here, he describes the experience and tells us a little more about what motivates him. The process.
CLÉ is an association which combats illiteracy to help promote better social and professional integration. The association works to encourage better acquisition of basic skills: Reading Writing and Arithmetic, but also runs special courses or classes, such as IT workshops. Based at Ermont, in the Val-d’Oise, the association has assisted 1,500 people since it was founded.
CLÉ, is the second association I have sponsored. Three or four years ago, I received an e-mail from the Foundation circulated to all Groupe ADP staff to explain the sponsorship scheme. I liked the idea and I thought it was time to do something different in my daily life. And I want to do something useful, which in practical terms means helping people in difficulty. That’s how I got started, beginning with an initial association (Issue de Secours, which proposed theatre workshops for youngsters in difficulty) which I sponsored for 2 years. At the end of my assignment, I was proposed a new association (CLÉ) which works to combat illiteracy. I’ve been a sponsor since late 2018.
The question of education is one which is particularly important for me, as I also experienced difficult moments during my school years. I know what it’s like to be a dropout and left school at 17 before resuming my studies later. Although things have changed a lot since my day, I have retained an interest in these questions and in the problems that dropping out of school can cause, including awkwardness, the feeling that you don’t belong, and so on...
The process - Phase 1: the immersion phase
For me, the sponsor’s role begins with an observation phase. I firstly want to understand how the association works. To do so, I make myself available to the volunteers... And no two days are ever alike! When I arrive on site, half a day each month, I don’t know in advance what awaits me. After notifying them that I’m arriving, I’m welcomed by the volunteers. According to their programme for the day, I may attend classes (IT, mathematics, French, etc.), discuss a given subject or help them with basic operational tasks such as preparing mailshots. I adapt to whatever they need! I support volunteers in their activities but don’t interfere in their relations with the beneficiaries.
The process - Phase 2: the dialogue phase
Being a sponsor has also naturally helped me discover life paths I would never have known anything about without this valuable experience… It’s a time of mutual dialogue and discovery between the volunteers, the beneficiaries and myself. There are plenty of lessons to be learned all round!
For example, a few days ago, I attended a maths class and was a surprised when a lady, one of the association’s beneficiaries, asked me to show her how much change she should receive when she buys a baguette loaf. As she didn’t know how to count, she was always worried about being cheated and had become unnecessarily suspicious. It may seem like a mundane example, but it says a great deal about the sense of fear if you experience when you haven’t mastered basic skills and everything seems strange or obscure.
Similarly, when I introduced myself during this workshop, most of the people present hadn’t heard the town where I live, (Montmorency) although it’s very close to the association’s home town (Ermont), and some have never been to Paris! For many of them, travelling by public transport is a huge obstacle, because they can’t read the information panels.
The process - Phase 3: the action phase
Next, the idea is to consider how I can make a concrete contribution. This can take several forms: passing on information and requests from volunteers to the Groupe ADP Foundation (donations of books, office chairs, etc.), or organising a project, at my initiative. And so it was that I had the idea of proposing a visit to the airport for the beneficiaries. I wanted to show them how an organisation of this kind operates, how we manage passenger flows, what happens to the suitcases, etc., while at the same time complying with safety rules of course! This would provide an opportunity for these isolated people to look beyond their daily lives, and to discover somewhere they were unfamiliar with. I have a number of practical issues to resolve but this project should come together during the spring
So, would I recommend this experience?
Of course I would! In fact, I often talk about this with my colleagues who tell me that it’s a good thing, but that they don’t feel particularly concerned. It’s almost as though you need to have a difficult moment in your life before deciding to help others. So to everyone who says they wouldn’t dare give it a go through fear of the unknown, I’d say simply: at least try it! We can learn so much by being in contact with people who have had less education than ourselves. A chance encounter can open your eyes and even change your career!