CO’OP – A place for solidarity

Organisation and country where the good practice has been implemented: SEPR, France

Title: CO’OP – A place for solidarity

Main Theme/Area of intervention: Social Inclusion

Main objectives: The objective is to answer the needs of learners, who sometimes come across temporary difficulties: material, financial, linked to health, family, housing, etc. After an interview with a social worker, the CO’OP provides them the kind of aid that is most adapted to their needs. Free food baskets are available every week if needed, but it can also be hygiene products, clothes or even access to culture, books, etc. Thanks to this help, more learners have their basic needs covered, so they can focus on their training and get their diploma, instead of disengaging from their studies/leaving school.

Target groups addressed: This practice targets all learners in precarious situations, but also needs the involvement of many staff members to function. Indeed, students who need help can be ashamed to ask for it, and it is of everyone’s responsibility (school counselors, teachers, etc.) to inform them that they can talk to a social worker who will advise them, in a confidential way. The moment of the food basket delivery is also very important to connect with learners, check on them, see if their situation has evolved, etc.

Main activities necessary for its realisation: For this practice to work, the management board has to be convinced by the project and support it, and all staff members must be engaged in this solidarity process. Social workers are also important, since they are the best professionals for this kind of action. Ours is present 3 days/week on campus. You also need a dedicated space to store food donations and distribute them. Finally, such a practice needs to be based on partnerships with specialized associations (food banks, Red Cross) to train the staff about food storage and distribution, hygiene rules, etc.

Results achieved: In the school year 2020-21, 64 learners had already benefited from this solidarity service, with a total of 207 baskets distributed. We still have to check the engagement rate of these learners, to see if this aid has actually prevented school drop out/helped learners get their diploma.

Innovation: By involving all our institution’s stakeholders, this practice establishes solidarity as an institutional key value both for learners, staff and management. We are now working on further involvement from the other students (who do not benefit from the baskets), to help us organize food donations (both internal and external), manage the food storage, etc. Their voluntary engagement will be recognized and valued in their curriculum, by ECTS or extra points. All the staff are already engaged and, by involving all the learners, we aim to create a virtuous circle of solidarity within our VET centre.

Transferability: This practice can easily be transferred to another institution in any EU country, provided you have the support of the management board and the necessary human resources (especially a social worker). Then, food donations can easily be organized by or with learners, they can help define the needs of targeted donations (for example, hygiene products). The donations can be internal or external, if they go for example to supermarkets to explain the project and ask for food. The partnership with associations is also very important, but most large associations are present in all countries (Red Cross and food banks).

Impact: Regional

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