Inclusion is a piece of cake

Gail, volunteer at Refettorio Paris since its opening, told us about her experience at the Refettorio and shared with us one of her favourite moments.

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Credits to: Freddy Gutierrez

What do you do for a living? 

I own and manage my own business – – specialised in furnished apartment rentals in Paris.

How many times a week do you volunteer at Refettorio Paris? When did you start? 

I volunteer every Monday evening and started in March 2018, when they opened.

When you don’t volunteer what do you like to do in your free time?

I work too much, as do most people with their own business! When I am not working, I like to enjoy nice meals with friends and family.

How do you live this experience? Has it changed you or your perspectives in some way?

I think, more than anything, this experience is helping me to change the perspective of a lot of people around me as I often have friends who want to come with me when I volunteer. I take my commitment with the Refettorio very seriously and I only cancel if there is a very good reason to. Even if I am tired or too busy with work, I still go. When I get there and see how happy our guests are, it makes it all worthwhile.

Has this experience changed your relation with food? If yes, how? 

Yes, it has. I have started using an app called Too Good To Go, for example, which sells food at a low price that would normally be discarded. I have also promoted this and other ideas to combat food waste within my social network.

Talking about human relations, has this experience changed your relationship with people? In what ways?

I have always been aware of the precarious situations some people fall into so this has not changed. I always make efforts to help strangers when I can and have always done so even before volunteering. Not enough people, however, open their eyes to look at others and see if they need help. An example was a few months ago, I was walking and I saw an elderly woman stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. She had a caddy (grocery cart) with her. For me, she looked like she needed help so I went up to her and asked if she did. The caddy was too heavy for her to take back home and she didn’t know what to do so I went with her.

How would you describe the relationship with the other volunteers?

The other volunteers are great and really want to help.

And with the guests?

I adore our guests and am always very pleased to see returning ones!

Do you think that the environment of the Refettorio has an impact on the guests? How?

Absolutely! Our guests feel very special when they come to the Refettorio. They do not come just for the food and the ambience, both of which they love. They are very grateful for the volunteers who are there; knowing that we are doing it for them, makes them feel special.

What’s the best thing (or your favourite moment) you have experienced at Refettorio Paris?

That’s a hard one, there are so many! I love when you see the guests leaving and you can see how truly happy they are with the service we have offered them. They are truly grateful and that warms my heart. There are also moments when a guest will pull me aside and share very personal things with me. This is also a special moment. One evening, a regular guest of ours was sitting at the table alone. When I served him his dessert (it was a chocolate cake and a lemon tart) he said he couldn’t eat the lemon tart, but he would loved to share his dessert with me. So I sat with him and I did just that. I  was very touched that he asked me to join him!