Focus 2004

Argenteuil - FRA15-06-2004

Project: The Valdocco Association
Date of foundation: Summer of 1995
Place: Argenteuil France
Province: France (FRA)

Valdocco, that was the name of the first House founded by Don Bosco in the suburbs of Turin in the 19th Century ; a home to welcome unemployed youngsters, in danger of delinquency and prison, and to help them to build a new future. Valdocco d’Argenteuil House of welcome draws on the same intuitions of animation and formation of children and adolescents.

Exzaire, one of the three regular leaders there, has already arrived, before 11 a.m., to repare the room and to make coffee. It is Wednesday, a day when there happens to be no school, and an important day for ‘Le Valdocco’. Some events have been set up for the youngsters from the area around des Coteaux, the Val d’Argent and the Cité Champagne. At 11.00, there is a meeting where all the leaders will come together led by Jean-Marie Petitclerc, a Salesian, and founder of the Valdocco Asociation. The majority of the leaders are unpaid volunteers, like Marie-Pierre, a primary school teacher. Some are students of the Polytechnic who include this in their first year as National Service.

The meeting, led by Jean-Marie Petitclerc, is to check that all is in readiness for the afternoon : what activities are prepared, and who will lead them. Today, three workshops will take place, for the youngest lot; while outside, an educational activity for those prepared to pay for a useful group activity. At the same time, on the « street » at Val d’Argent, an area known for riots 1991, the leaders will offer some street activity at the Place des Canuts. Following that it will be time to bring together the motorbike riders group for « A team, a town » (see pic. no. 2) and welcome the secondary school youngsters to help them with homework. At the end of the meeting, they talk about events further ahead, and in particular the holiday activities.

Towrds 2.00 pm, the first of the youngsters arrives. The workshops groups get started: bread-making, building a model windmill, preparing some gifts for Mothers Day. For each activity, the ground rules need to be explained so things can go as well as they can. The youngsters’ attention has to be held by changing activities. The older ones who have come to make themselves useful are ready: in the cellar, to clean up the effects of a leak, or outside, to cut the hedge and to mow the grass which is overgrown. For any tasks which are a bit risky, physically, they sign an agreement: when they start, when they finish, the work done… it is both an apprenticeship of service and a project.

Out on the Place des Canuts, the street activities are in full swing. Virginie and Christine, Salesian Cooperators, look after a street library. Thereàs a heap of young girls who come along to finger through the books. Another leader or an older sister gives a talk to the little ones. The boys prefer hockey, and some of the girls play too. For the leaders, the main worry is to is to see that the rules and fair-play are respected. In one corner of the square, d’autres other kids are drawing ; they are given paper and felt-tip pens. During his stint, Cyril, a regular leader at Valdocco, makes a real effort to be in touch with and to relate to the older ones. This presence amongst them is so important since these ones tend to impose their own rule of law in an area where the adults so often lack credibility.

After afternoon tea, at 5.00 pm, there’s the youngsters taking part in « A team, a town ». It is an important moment : This same afternoon they have a theory test for C.A.S.M. (Certificate of Ability in Motorcycling) without which they cannot ride a motor bike. Because, before riding, they have to know the rules for riding on the road : the meaning of signs, respect for other riders.

Towrds 5.30 pm, the secondary student come to Valdocco looking for help with their homework; their scholastic success depends on it. The leaders are there to advise, explain and helpr. The stakes are high concerning this support because in this environment, scholastic failure often means social failure.

After five years, The ValdoccoAssociation d’Argenteuil in an area so marked by its negative image, has achieved the basic task of rebuilding social connections, through projects of animation and formation, and re-establishing relationships between groups and between generations.

The Valdocco Association at nine years of age
Founded in June 1995, some months after the arrival of the Salesians in the Parish of Saint Jean-Marie-Vianney, the Association determined 7 main objectives :
· to develop street activity : meet the young there where they are ;
· develop citizenship : make the young people protagonists in their own situation ;
· work for scholastic success, especially through homework assistance ;
· help make adults responsible for the education of the new generation: mobilise the locals to see the importance of their involvement;
· offer formation : get rid of idleness and lack of aim (The Trade Institute in the city is a result of the Valdocco Association) ;
· prevent delinquency : establish relationships with young people, listen to their plans and help them to achieve them ;
· struggle against exclusion : learning to live and work together in different activities.
The pedagogy used in this is that of Don Bosco : a preventive approach based on confidence and affection, gradually allowing them to take responsibility.

« A team, a town »
Sponsored by the Fédération Française de Motocyclisme, this consists in putting into place a scheme for youngsters around a sport that is very ‘trendy’. In the first such event, the « Team Valdocco » came 3rd.. The competition, which brings together teams from different cities around France, is the successful result of much organisation, material and financial preparation, publicity and formation. So, social and educational dimensions have been added to the values of sport.

Aim of the work : to carry out an educational work for the children and adolescents in d’Argenteuil and its locality, by putting into place :
§ formative activities
§ spare-time activities, of a cultural and sporting kind
§ welcome and finding accommodation

Work aimed at : children and adolescents, young people in difficulty in their families, socially or at school, and who live around the sensitive area of Val d’Argent, Cité Champagne, and Cité Martin Luther King

Number who benefit :around 400
Name of the Director : Fr. Jean-Marie Petitclerc, SDB
Number of Salesians : 3
Number of lay helpers : 8 paid, 10 trainees, 12 volunteers
Other : The work at Valdocco also relies on a parish entrusted to the Salesians, the Parish of St Jean-Marie Vianney. The social work carried out in the sensitive area of Argenteuil is done by the Director, le Père Petitclerc, who through the City Trade Institute (IFMV) helps form social workers.


Association le Valdocco
32 Bd G. Clémenceau

Tel: (+33) (0)1 39 82 61 09
Fax: (+33) (0)1 39 82 61 09
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