Social distancing had a huge impact on the frequency and quality of our daily interactions, and certain social connections simply disappeared. As highlighted by Crédoc’s 2021 study on loneliness, commissioned by Fondation de France, one person in four is isolated. However, among this affected population, there is a category that was supposedly spared this misfortune: young people. Yet their solitude levels soared, with 21% of 15 to 30-year-olds feeling the effects, a figure that doubled in one year. Confronted with this dire situation, Fondation de France, which has implemented over 3,500 projects for young people, has decided to strengthen its actions with a specific type of assistance: individual support for young people and students in very difficult situations.
For young people, the health crisis was a double whammy. Not only did they lose their part-time jobs that assured them a minimum of financial security, but they were also often confronted with the risk of failing their classes at school. They were twice as likely to deal with poverty or unemployment compared to the rest of the population. As a result, certain expenses, though essential, became impossible. For example, they didn’t have the money for an Internet plan or computer equipment, however essential those were to their training or studies, not to mention their social and professional integration.
33% of young people reported profound feelings of loneliness (as opposed to 14% for 60-years-old and over). Only 46% maintained regular contact with their family and friends during the height of the crisis. Even worse, more than one in two young people admitted feelings of abandonment, exclusion, or uselessness. During a period of life equated with energy and thirst for social relationships, young adult’s distress is particularly intolerable.
Reinforced support programs
Fondation de France has committed to this generation by dedicating 3,500 of the 10,000 projects it supports every year to young adults. In 2007, Fondation de France issued a call for projects for the most vulnerable youths in the Mediterranean area entitled “Grants for young adults without family support.” The goal was to offer beneficiaries an opportunity to successfully enter the professional world and become financially independent. This as-needed assistance has since been extended to the Grand Ouest, Nord and Grand Est regions.
More recently, the consequences of the crisis led Fondation de France to get even more involved in helping young people, through two major initiatives. The first was the launch of the Student Solidarity initiative with the newspaper La Croix. This fundraising drive offered the opportunity to get involved along three different lines: essential assistance (food, health, housing), support for material necessities and psychological help. The funds raised reinforced actions that already received support from Fondation de France. A few examples: care at the Georges Heuyer Clinic in Paris for 16 to 25-year-olds suffering from psychological problems, taking on young people without diplomas at the École de la seconde chance (School of Second Chances) in Mulhouse and help getting food and buying computer equipment through the O’Sem Association on the Orleans campus.
Lending a hand to get a leg up on life
At the same time, Fondation de France has expanded its grants to young adults. Up until then, these grants were primarily given to beneficiaries of Aide Sociale à l’Enfance (Youth Social Welfare), to the most at-risk populations of children and students. Fondation de France wanted to also help young adults to pay for their essential needs (rent assistance, food, computer equipment costs, school tuition, medical bills, etc.) so they can live their lives and pursue their studies without worry. This supplement to government assistance is offered in cooperation with the social services and universities that supervise the young people on a local level. Anna Dufour, head of Fondation de France’s Education Program, notes that “social workers, special education teachers and volunteer associations identify and work with the young people at a local level. They check that all the public assistance options are available and help them fill out the grant application for Fondation de France.” In 2021, Fondation de France helped 74% of the 18 to 25-year-olds who applied. That represents twice as many applications received in one year and support for over 380 young adults’ futures.
Long-term assistance for young people
Feedback from beneficiaries provides tangible proof of the program’s effectiveness. A high-school student in Tourcoing explains: “This made it possible for me to buy a computer for doing my homework and my internship report.” Another student in Nancy, in their fourth year of medical school emphasizes that “without this help, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the doctor or pay my bills.”
Recognizing the pertinence of this program and the amplitude of the need, Fondation de France wishes to expand it to other regions. In parallel, through a partnership with two universities in the Grand Est region, it would like to create an ongoing initiative for students, focused on a long-term goal to keep them from dropping out of school. A range of initiatives that need to be consolidated and followed up to give young people facing particularly difficult circumstances the means to build a better future.
In the words of a beneficiary
“Support from Fondation de France was a real springboard for my studies”
“Up until last year, I had a place to live thanks to the ALEFPA association (Association laïque pour l’éducation, la formation, la prévention et l’autonomie – Lay Association for Education, Training, Prevention and Independence). But the assistance stopped when I turned 18. Fortunately, I had the chance to talk to a volunteer at Fondation de France who came to the association’s office. I explained to her that I wanted to do a diploma in special education. However, my family was not able to support me financially, and I was stuck. I needed access to student housing and also to be able to buy a computer. She suggested that I get a some help from ALEFPA to help me fill in an application online on Fondation de France’s website. That’s how I received assistance from the Foundation: it allowed me to benefit from a 800-euro one-time grant for housing and 400 euros for a computer. It was a real springboard for my studies since I could then start my training in special education. I chose this field because it corresponded to my personality, my social skills. I like to feel useful, especially with children and the idea of helping them grow up under good conditions is very motivating to me. This can also be explained by the fact that I was placed in Aide Sociale à l’Enfance (Child Social Welfare). Today, I want to take action, to change things and to give back what was given to me. Right now I’m doing an internship in a ITEP (Institut Thérapeutique Educatif et Pédagogique – Therapeutic, Educational and Pedagogical Institute) with children with disabilities. I propose activities to suit their disability, without diminishing them. It’s fascinating and I learn something every day working with them. My plan is to get my diploma and become a responsible citizen committed to helping others.”
Mehdi, 19 years old, Lille.
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