Reunion Island is one of the French departments with the highest poverty rate with 42% of the population living below the poverty line. With nuclear families becoming more increasingly fragile, the young residents of Reunion Island are at greater risk than other French youths. Confronted with “multiple symptoms of social distress,” Reunion Island has demonstrated its will to improve the protection of local children and families.
Fifty years ago, the French Red Cross (CRF) created a special center for minors coming from difficult circumstances, “Les Filaos” children’s center (MECS). Initially a vacation camp, it became a shelter in 1975. Four other similar sites were later created on the island. Les Filaos itself was closed in 1991 and essentially abandoned, becoming the home to CRF'sadministrative services.
Until in 2017, CRF decided to completely renovate the historical center in an effort to support children. The renovation cost more than €1 million, including a loan of €700,000 from Agence Française de Développement (AFD).
Helping Youth Re-gain Their Footing
Set in a stunning location—Saint-Gilles-les-Bains, a beach resort along the west coast of the island—Les Filaos was designed to protect and support children whose families cannot fully meet their needs, who have been placed under court supervision or receive youth welfare services. The shelter offers more than just temporary housing, striving to give these youths an opportunity to grow and flourish while maintaining contact with their families when possible.
Inaugurated in late October, the shelter is slated to reopen in December. In the one location, it will have a boarding school for 24 students as well as 12 places available in a day program for children aged 5 to 14. Its classrooms and activity rooms (TV, games, library) will make for a safe, friendly educational environment. Plans call for Laundry facilities, a cafeteria, and a computer room, as well as a new space for administrative services. It will be a great addition for youth support on Reunion Island.
For AFT, which also supported the renovation of an EHPAD (retirement housing facility) managed by the French Red Cross, this project represents another step forward in promoting community health and maintaining social ties to Reunion Island, the goal that drives its efforts with France’s overseas departments and territories.
In addition, AFD has renewed its support for the French Red Cross: already a major partner in its foreign initiatives, the association is gradually becoming a key partner to AFD in its efforts in the social sector of overseas departments and territories. This project confirms AFD’s 100% commitment to supporting social ties in its 2018-2022 strategic orientation plan.