The French Red Cross’ department for volunteer activities and engagement (DABE) leads a network of 60 000 volunteers engaged across the national territory, in the fields of social action, emergency and first aid. In 2018, working as close to the ground and the volunteers as possible, the French Red Cross financed a postdoctoral research fellowship on the place of food aid in the migrant experience amongst new arrivals in France. Simon Cahen, deputy director of DABE, explains.
Together with the French Red Cross Foundation, you recently launched a call for applications for a postdoctoral research fellowship. What motivated your decision to support research through the allocation of this fellowship?
Simon Cahen : In each country, our volunteers seek to respond to salient social needs. Our role as the national office is to accompany them in the day-to-day, identifying good practices, and capitalising and disseminating them. We are therefore attentive and privileged witnesses to the new needs which are emerging in France. And our mission is also to offer our network new projects to develop to face up to these needs.
To develop our capacity to respond to these recent needs, we therefore wanted to develop aid for research in order to develop our thinking and guide our decision-making. As it so happens, we chose to work on the question of “food aid and migrations”.
What are your expectations with regard to this research on the theme of “Food aid and migrations”? How will you capitalise on the results in order to improve your actions on a daily basis?
SC : Migrant populations, who have to contend with social precarity and vulnerability linked to migration or exile, appear particularly fragile. Their living and material conditions, along with their cultural habits, are a real challenge to the adoption of a sufficient, healthy and balanced diet… with possible repercussions on their state of health. Moreover, we feel that ways of eating, as well as privations amongst new arrivals in France, may differ according to whether the migration was made alone, as a couple or as a family.
Our aim is therefore simple: to better understand these populations, their current needs and uses of food aid, in order to better respond to their future needs.
The Foundation aims to bring the skills and knowledge of researchers to aid workers. How do you see your collaboration with the Foundation in general?
SC : Because of the very nature of our job, we work in a state of constant emergency and offer responses to the daily demands of our network. By initiating this collaboration with the Foundation, we want, conversely, to take the time to reflect on a number of major subjects at the heart of our action and to undertake an in-depth analysis, perhaps with several consecutive research projects gravitating around the same subject over several years. One thing is for sure, we need to provide food for thought for the French Red Cross volunteers!
photo credit : D. Pazery (French Red-Cross)