A SHARE Network series featuring short portraits with our Rural Ambassadors for Inclusive Territories in France.
The SHARE Network strives to promote whole-of-society and participatory approaches for the social inclusion of newcomers.
Our ambassadors are people - refugees, migrants and local elected representatives of small and medium communities - who have first-hand experience of the inclusion and integration of newcomers in rural areas of France.
Our ambassadors for Inclusive Territories will share their stories and input on good practices for welcome and integration in rural communities, promote their communities’ achievements, and advocate for more and better integration actions at the local, regional, national and European levels.
Portrait of ELLA JOSIANE
Ella in her home at La Clayette
Starting a new life in La Clayette
Ella Josiane, 32, is a refugee of Central African origin. She was resettled in France at the end of 2019. She lives with her two children in a countryside village called La Clayette, in Saône-et-Loire. Accompanied by the charity Viltaïs in all administrative processes, she tells us that her situation is relatively good and that she feels at ease in La Clayette: "It feels good, it’s not noisy like in a big city. We are fine with the children, there is the mayor office very close, as well as the local mission”. The proximity to shops and state services, as well as the support of the villagers and the relationships with the neighbors greatly facilitated the initial adjustment period. Ella Josiane was also able to find an accessible and well-suited apartment for her family. While she admits that sometimes people’s opinions and racism are a problem, she stated she is very happy to live in La Clayette and to start her new life in France.
Learning French and being supported at school
The primary school of La Clayette, for example, made a lot of efforts to support the integration of her daughter Nafissa who was not able to go to school when they lived in a refugee camp in Chad, and therefore did not speak French at all when they arrived. She had to be integrated into a lower level class than her age group. However, during the pandemic, the teacher gave her lessons by phone every morning and evening. “It was intense but it paid off”, Ella explains. “In September 2020, she was able to start middle school, and her French teacher gave her extra lessons every week. It was a big change. I was really happy and she herself was really happy", she concludes. Indeed, mastering French has also enabled her to socialize with children of her own age more easily.
Challenges caused by the lack of infrastructure
Nevertheless, Ella and her daughters face the same challenges as other rural inhabitants, especially when it comes to the lack of infrastructure and public transport, the lack of variety of work opportunities and the difficult access to healthcare. “Here at La Clayette, sometimes we have to wait for the bus for a really long time. You leave home early and you come home late", Ella tells us, adding that this is not practical for someone like her without a driving license and with a sick loved one. When her daughter requires medical attention, she must rely on the help of friends and neighbors to go to the hospital regularly. She also needs the nursing staff to be flexible and let her spend the night in the hospital with her daughter because there is no public transport in the evening to return to La Clayette.
Significant barriers to mobility also reduce the possibility of finding a job that matches one's abilities and aspirations. “I used to be a nurse in my home country but my diploma is not recognized here. This worries me because before I left I was told it would be", she says. After 10 months of training in Charolles at the CFPPA level, and after submitting her application for a nursing assistant course to subsequently go on to a nursing course, her application was not accepted. She is now continuing her efforts with Pôle Emploi in order to apply for a position at the PASS in Paray.
Participation in the SHARE TI project
Ella Josiane was very sensitive to the approach of the SHARE TI project. Despite the difficulties already mentioned, integration in rural areas allows better mutual assistance due to the proximity between people as well as the proximity with village services. She indicates that "in the village, people help each other easily". For instance, Ella and one of her neighbors who has a daughter of the same age as Nafissa support one another. Thus, for Ella Josiane, participating in the SHARE TI project means being able to convey a positive image of integration in rural areas, but also highlight its limits in order to collectively figure out solutions.
And in the future?
Ella tells us that she is looking to move to Roanne to have better access to transport and hospitals, as well as to find a job training more easily. “For me what's important is knowing that I can walk around and access training. Being alone with the kids right now is not satisfying for me", she says, eager to apply her skills in the workplace. She also hopes to get her license, to be more autonomous in her daily life.