A Gesture For The Children That We Hope Is More Than Symbolic…

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Recently, a delegation of children from Maison des enfants Marie-Rose (MDEMR) went to the Beauharnois Town Hall to present Mayor Alain Dubuc with a specially decorated chair. 

Several months ago, Mayor Dubuc extended an invitation to the MDEMR team to ensure the symbolic presence of children at City Council meetings. With this presence, Mayor Dubuc wishes to remind everyone that decisions must be taken with an awareness of the present and future of the children of Beauharnois.

The request turned into an educational project. With the help of Janine Lefebvre, founder of the non-profit organization, and volunteers, the youngsters saw their efforts crowned with success. They were proud of their achievement, but hoped that the presence of this chair would be more than symbolic.

Hungry young people

Most of the young people supported by MDEMR are hungry! Many suffer from hunger as well as emotional and financial distress.

Reality strikes the imagination of MDEMR adults in these difficult times. What can we say to a child who has nothing to eat in the morning, or another who has managed to find an onion for breakfast? It’s easy to understand why the thirty or so children who come to Maison des enfants Marie-Rose for lunch literally devour their meal, in addition to eating the dozens of eggs – a food item considered too expensive for many parents, according to some of the children.

The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that, for several years now, the school environment has no longer offered the “breakfast” service. This, coupled with the current economic situation, adds further pressure on parents who can no longer feed their families.  After school, some fifteen young people gather at the MDEMR for artistic and educational activities and a snack that often serves as their meal. A certain discipline is imposed on participants in the arts and music workshops, limiting the number of participants to a maximum of 20.

An essential role

In such a context, Maison des enfants Marie-Rose succeeds in meeting the needs of some youngsters with its comprehensive range of services. In addition to after-school lunches and snacks, the organization offers a wide range of cultural and artistic activities that foster young people’s development. The children benefit from the unwavering support of the entire team, made up of volunteers, immigrants from Africa  who have skills as teachers.

They are in the process of integrating into Quebec society. Some of them benefit from a partnership with Service Québec, which subsidizes their salaries. There are also two social workers who help out on an ad hoc basis.

When children spontaneously say “Here, we always feel respected”, we understand the vital role played by this resource for the people of  Beauharnois.

“We’d like to welcome more children, but we don’t have the funds to hire qualified staff and offer quality services,” says Janine Lefebvre, SNJM associate, who continues to work on a voluntary basis after handing over management to Fanny de Roussan.

Developing sources of financing

Beyond the resounding success of the million-dollar, deficit-free renovation of Ellice Manor, there are many challenges to be met in maintaining this new venue for the creation and dissemination of the arts, which now benefits the entire Beauharnois community. In addition to maintenance costs and the salaries of a few staff members, there are those directly related to food requirements. These costs have risen considerably in recent years.

Regular activities include Dinner Speakers from 5pm to 7pm, Christmas and spring markets open to local and regional artisans, and jazz evenings to finance ongoing activities. Personal initiatives on the part of individuals and businesses in Beauharnois are to be commended. For example, a citizen took charge of organizing a spaghetti day, which was a great success. Automobiles Bégin decided to raise funds during its annual Christmas lights campaign last December. The company donated $4,000 to the MDEMR.

At the same time, director Fanny de Roussan has stepped up her efforts to promote the rental of the manor house, one of Beauharnois’ most beautiful sites. This is a significant source of income, which she hopes to double in the next few years. In the meantime, she has to take up the pilgrim’s staff again to solicit donations and subsidies in the hope of obtaining recurrent support to consolidate the organization’s foundations.

In search of recurrent support

MDEMR’s unique educational, social and cultural mission seems to disqualify it from many current subsidy programs. Undeterred, the director hopes to influence decision-makers to review their restrictive criteria, which exclude a resource that is just as valuable as some other widely subsidized social pediatrics.

At a time when everyone agrees on the importance of children’s well-being, the MDEMR team hopes that the Beauharnois community, under the leadership of the town council, already convinced by the cause, will mobilize to support the organization financially. Today, the MDEMR is a precious oasis of peace for children, and an example for many other regions.

Photo credit: Maison des enfants Marie-Rose