|Turkey curry and pasta with vegetables for eight people.|
Scanning the faces of the hungry men who have been standing in line for the past ninety minutes, Simone tells us to give each of them two spoons of pasta with vegetables and one piece of meat. When we remove the lids and discover that the main course is turkey curry, she rapidly reassesses the situation and says to serve two to three pieces of meat. Before leaving us for her post at the entrance of the enclosure, Simone reminds us to smile and offer a kind word to the men because we're not only feeding their bodies, we're also feeding their spirits.
Bowls in hands, the first group enters the fenced-off area. "Bonsoir, madame." "Merci, madame.", "No sauce for me." "Madame, can you please give me some more meat. I haven't eaten in two days!" Looking up from my job of ladling food as rapidly as possible, I gaze into two soulful brown eyes and add another piece of meat with some more sauce. As group after group of men of all ages pass in front of our table, Simone gently reminds me not to be overly generous. There has to be enough to feed all of the 360-400 men who have gathered at Quai de Jemmapes for what very well may be their only meal of the day.
Halfway through, Simone whispers that we have to reduce the amount to one spoon of pasta and one to two pieces of meat. Regretting my earlier generosity, I explain to the men that we can't give them more because we need to have enough food for everyone. Their grumbles and complaints make my heart heavy, but I remind myself that this is France, the home of the three-course meal. In addition to the main course, each man receives a container of pasta salad, a roll with cheese, a container of chocolate mousse, a bottle of water and tea or coffee. I hope that it's enough to sustain them for the next 24 hours.
|Distribution Center on the Quai de Jemmapes in the 10th arrondissement|
As part of the annual Boston University Global Day of Service, Stéphane and I joined a small group of BU alumni and students to distribute hot meals in the 10th arrondissement on Saturday evening. While donning our fluorescent yellow vests, Simone explained that the Salvation Army serves 350-600 meals on the street every day of the year, with the exception of Christmas Eve when they host a sit-down dinner with entertainment. In order to operate efficiently, they need 10-12 volunteers each evening. They have, however, had to make do with teams of four when volunteers have failed to show up at the designated time. As we were a group of about 12, I don't know how they managed with fewer people because we were busy the entire time setting up tables, unloading the truck, serving the food and picking up the garbage from the ground after the men were finished eating.
If you are in Paris and would like to volunteer, consider distributing meals on the Quai de Jemmapes by calling the Salvation Army at 01.43.62.25.42. Alternatively, you can make a monetary donation on the their website. I can attest that the money is used for a good cause - I only wish that we would have been able to give the men more food!
Many thanks to Caroline for organizing the Boston University Global Day of Service in Paris.
|Caroline, BU alumna and current BU employee, and Catherine, BU sophomore enrolled in the study abroad program.|