‘The Captain’ challenges impoverished youth to like France

PIERREFITTE-SUR-SEINE, France (AP) — The person they name “the Captain” runs a good ship, reaching into his years of navy service to inculcate confidence, braveness and a love of France in his proteges, youths from poor French suburbs,.

However first they have to discover ways to get up on time and brush their enamel, says Nourouddine Abdoulhoussen, a former member of the eighth Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, who heads an affiliation referred to as Laissez Les Servir (Let Them Serve) with a novel strategy to integration.

In his personal method, the white-bearded, 53-year-old Abdoulhoussen is working to uplift a few of France’s battalions of impoverished youth, usually from closely immigrant housing initiatives recognized for unemployment and delinquency, and to revive French values to create “the residents of tomorrow.”

Abdoulhoussen, a Muslim initially from India, has no sympathy for complainers.

“I, too, have a background,” he stated. “I crossed the seas to return right here. I lived the issue of integration. I understand how it feels to have folks stare at you since you behave otherwise. Or folks take a look at you since you look completely different.”

A gaggle of younger troops snaps to consideration on command. They sing the French nationwide anthem, then transfer to their assigned stations in a gymnasium in Pierrefitte-Sur-Seine, north of Paris. In a minutely calibrated, military-style operation, they put together and pack a minimum of 400 meals each day for supply to the poor throughout Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Directions are spelled out in lists on the wall. Throughout a latest go to, 639 items of hen, reduce by the youth, had been cooked together with greens in big pots in a tent outdoors. Through the yr, the younger folks take kettles of soup into Paris prepare stations.

Different values are taught throughout outdoors expeditions, together with navy video games in several elements of France. Donning camouflage uniforms, they find out about overcoming challenges in rugged terrain, self-discipline and dealing as a group.

“I took medication, did some fairly silly issues….I had no goals,” stated a 29-year-old initially from Senegal who goes by the nickname Biline. With out the group “I may have ended otherwise.”

Two years in the past, Abdoulhoussen bused 50 youths to the royal area in Normandy of the pretender to the non-existent French throne for a lesson in etiquette. They sang the “Marseillaise,” the French anthem, to Prince Jean. That go to sparked Rayen Benayed, 19, into turning into a full-time affiliation member, one among about 300 round France.

The greater than two dozen youths serving to to organize the Ramadan meals got here from backgrounds as blended because the French suburbs: French-Afghan, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gabon, Algeria, some born in France, others nonetheless hoping for residence papers. Many are college students, others are nonetheless looking for a foothold in life. One girl who took up boxing to fend off her abusive husband is among the many group’s feminine members.

“I think about myself French,” Biline stated, “as a result of I feel that turning into French isn’t just papers. It’s habits, realizing easy methods to dwell and likewise talking the language….For me, racism is now simply ignorant folks.”

Abdoulhoussen says the youths should work to beat each their very own unhealthy habits and the rejection that always plagues folks with completely different names, appears to be like or addresses.

“These youth who don’t know easy methods to get up at 7 a.m.,” he stated. “Why do we’ve got to show youth to brush their enamel?”

He claims the French authorities wastes money and time by throwing new applications into its troubled suburbs to treatment issues. What should be finished is “go to the underside of the challenge stairwells, wake them up, make them work … to go produce what is going to make them really feel invaluable.”

Let Them Serve was based in 2007 underneath a unique title. It’s annual finances is just 120,000 euros ($144,000), cash that comes from donations.

“I need to imprint of their minds, love of nation,” he stated. “You already know, many of those youngsters’ minds are from overseas, so that they assume this nation doesn’t belong to them … We don’t need to break their heritage, their previous. We need to make them wealthy twice.”

These are classes realized for Ophelie Voisin, 25, a French-Afghan girl from Amiens, north of Paris. She is pleased with her 9 years within the affiliation.

“Singing ‘La Marseillaise’ within the morning, it’s not a disgrace. It’s actually a pleasure,” she stated. “We must be pleased with that as a result of we’re in France.”


Nicolas Garriga contributed from Pierrefitte.

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