Children and adults with mental disabilities on their way to vacation thanks to Éclaireuses Éclaireurs de France d’Orléans

On this last morning in July it is a Sunday game in the car park of the Stade de la Vallée in Fleury-les-Aubrais. Parked everywhere, buses; scattered here and there, luggage; sometimes somewhat confused the owners of said luggage; finally, swirling between all that, members of the Orléans team of Les Éclaireuses Éclaireurs de France.

The Orleans branch of this secular movement, affiliated with the Fédération du scoutisme français, has been organizing for almost fifty years stay for young people and adults with mental disabilitieswith varying degrees of autonomy.

These last are registered by their families or by medical-social institutions which the association is used to working with. More than 400 holidaymakers suffering from a mental disability thus take the road to holiday this Sunday, a major organizational challenge each time for the structure.

It requires almost 200 instructors and animators to be recruited… and today recruitment in the animation profession is complicated”, emphasizes the operations director of Les Éclaireuses Éclaireurs de France, Jean Amand Declerck. “We have succeeded in finding accommodation, teams to hold the stays.”

Based in Orléans, the Zirlib collective helped the François Hollande Foundation to create art centers in nursing homes

Diversified stays

To run it all, a small team of six permanent employees and around ten volunteers as backup. The stays range from one week to three weeks… and go more or less far. The most autonomous people thus traveled this Sunday to Croatia; others, more dependent, on the contrary, have embarked on local stays, less than a hundred miles away; and there are intermediate journeys, more oriented towards the Atlantic coast.

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The formulas have been refined and diversified over the years, according to demand. “We try that understand the needs of the holidaymakers, but also the families. For them too, this period is a relief, a time of respite”, points out Jean Amand Declerck.

What we do corresponds to a social need, for people with disabilities who have the right to holiday, for families and for businesses that are closed during this period.

With the movement’s two other holiday services (Caen and Chalon-sur-Saône) offering this type of stay in France, these 1,200 people going on holiday thanks to Les Éclaireuses Éclaireurs de France This year.

Dimitri Crozet

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