Territories of the future
Born in Paris in the 15th arrondissement, and settled in Corrèze since 1978, Jérôme Perdrix, 62, has sometimes been considered a “neo-rural” for his commitment to the defense of rural territories, or “territories of the future” as he advocates. In parallel with a professional career in the agricultural sector and then in the medico-social sector, he cumulated two municipal mandates as deputy mayor. In the municipal team, he was responsible for environmental and social affairs, which included the reception and integration of refugees. He is about to retire and when he looks back on his career he states, "I did a lot of things but, at the same time, I only did what I had to do."
Welcoming refugees: a duty of humanity
When in 2017 the municipality was approached by the sous-préfet and director of the departmental directorate of social cohesion to find out whether the community agreed to welcome refugees, the mayor immediately accepted, hoping that the arrival of children could bring new pupils to the school. For Jérôme as well, it was really about echoing the news and responding to the crisis by welcoming. The residents were also consulted and they showed no opposition. Jérôme volunteered to be the person in charge of welcoming the refugees. "I was motivated by a duty of humanity, and if I had to, I would have placed someone in my house”, he explains.
Teamwork at the root of integration strategies
The local network linked to the association mandated by the prefecture was thus mobilized to find volunteers, which did not represent a real challenge. “Ayen is a village with a lot of resources, in particular thanks to the proximity that exists between the people”, explains Jérôme. There is a hard core of people involved in supporting families, and other people who help occasionally but regularly when they are called upon with each new arrival. The entire action is based on real teamwork managed by volunteers, the municipality, local associations, the school and the Maison France Service. "We have furnished the accommodation available, stocked the fridges, followed the administrative procedures, organized tours of the municipality, French lessons and parties so that they meet people and become familiar with convivial moments. (…) In addition, there were very regular meetings between volunteers throughout to check in on the different families and ensure that everyone had the necessary information, while obviously respecting the families' privacy", he concludes.
"Reception in rural areas means spending a lot of time on the road"
Thanks to this very efficient organization and the very clear distribution of tasks and responsibilities, the experience was a success and 16 people were welcomed into the community and were able to be enrolled in the school and find a job quickly. They have also gradually achieved a certain degree of autonomy and confidence: "I have noticed that integration is when the stack of mail decreases and families no longer need to call us to understand". He explain that “As a general rule, reception in rural areas means spending a lot of time on the road to take and bring people back and try to make it less difficult, whether it be for appointments, for school, for internships. It was dozens of hours a week."
Finding a new family in the rural community
Meanwhile, there are many advantages for the community: the volunteers learn a lot and they are made aware of what is happening far away from them. In addition, refugees arrive with skills and participate in society with their children. "It is really a great chance for the rural communities and if the families have stayed it is because they have found a new family in Ayen", he says. "If we could welcome once more, we would do it all again with no hesitation", he concludes.
Participation in the SHARE TI project
Jérôme was very receptive to the approach of the SHARE TI project. "I will share our collective and human experience with others to inspire them with great pleasure", he tells us because he strongly believes that the participation of local communities and refugees is essential to find solutions for integration.