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Paseo, France

Laurence PaseoTwo dates are important for me. In 1999, I became a volunteer for Home-Start in Central London. In 2006, I opened the first French Home-start scheme in France. It's taken me seven years to realise that Home-Start was a very special charity, that there was nothing similar in France and that French society was ready for that type of support for families.

In 1999 I was living in London, wanted to change jobs and get into social work. I needed to get some voluntary experience in order to find out if I was really built for social work. My choice was Home-Start. I only volunteered for one year, but discovered that I was really able to help a family by offering regular support and friendship. After one year at Home-Start, I returned to France and started a Masters degree in social development in the south of France, making setting up Home-Start in France my school project.

At that point I got in touch with Home-Start International and we started exploring the idea of my project becoming part of the international organisation. In 2006, finding that social care professionals and charity workers were responding very positively to my project and that potential funders did not think I was completely mad, I registered a charity called Paseo and set up a Board of trustees.

I'm very pleased with the way the project has been understood and supported. France is a country where social services are fairly well funded and the risk was that professionals would not welcome working alongside volunteers. Some of them could see that volunteers complement professionals. What has been difficult is understanding the way the funding system works (I'm lucky to be in a country where state funding exists!) and starting the work without knowing if Paseo will be funded. But on the whole it has been terribly interesting, challenging, and fun!

Advice I would give: take the time to find out what help is already at hand for families, how Home-Start fits in, and take time to get to know the people who already offer help to families. They are the best allies. I specifically chose to start the scheme in an area were charities and institutions were already working closely together.

Laurence, France

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