“I left my country in 2018, three months pregnant. We were in our forties. Some died during the trip…” Fatou Bangoura struggles to recount her terrible journey from Guinea Conakry, eyes lowered on the flowers in shades pastel that she assembles into pretty bouquets.
That morning, the 26-year-old young woman had the task of decorating the tables of Liens (Place of Integration In Nature restoration
“Restoration is a fabulous field for developing skills and qualities which will then serve them to work, in this sector or another”, explains to AFP Véronique Bras, 49, co-founder of Liens with her brother-in-law Christophe Chaillou. , 53 years.
Both are in the business: one at Le Suquet in Laguiole, one of the best restaurants in the world, where her husband Sébastien orchestrates in the kitchen, the other as chef and manager of Café Bras in Rodez.
– Difficult courses –
Employees, guided by Pôle emploi, the Local Mission, the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii) or associations, start with a four-month contract renewable for up to two years. They learn cooking and service.
“Right now, we have a disabled person, a refugee, others who have all different backgrounds, but all complicated, difficult, even dramatic”, adds Véronique.
Under his benevolent eye, part of the team sets the tables in a magnificent room in the former national stud farm rented by the department at the third place Station A which has, among other initiatives, this “solidarity restaurant and vector of integration”.
On the sets, messages evoke the goal of Liens and the origins of the historic monument: “Help to jump the obstacles!”, “We are straddling politeness!”, “Enjoy!”.
The furniture has been salvaged here and there, such as the imposing counter beyond which the kitchen opens.
The day begins in the garden, on a plot of the park of six hectares.
The team that concocts the starter-main course-dessert menu of the day waters, weeds and picks herbs or vegetables that will be supplemented by market purchases.
“This allows them to connect with what they prepare and serve”, specifies Audrey Foucras, 45, social worker present two days a week.
There are “so many people so far removed from social life, who live on the streets, who can neither read nor write, who have sad lives. The idea is to give them back their fishing (… ) rigor, know-how”, adds Christophe, who also taught for fifteen years in a hotel school.
At the Café Bras works one of the first recruits of Liens: Reza Mirzaï, a young Afghan of 24 years who, after the harshness of the roads of exile, feels “so good”.
– Gain confidence –
At the stud farms, the tables are set by the service team. “Being at the service, says Véronique, allows them to develop relational qualities and contributes to confidence, even to reconstruction.”
Before receiving customers, Fatou confides: “In the country, my mother cooked a lot. But I knew nothing about French cuisine. Now, I prepare dishes. Aminata, my daughter who is two and a half years old, loves my madeleines! “
Between theater or poetry workshops given by other speakers from Station A, and reading the menu aloud in front of the team, Alain Lévêque has improved his speech and his mastery of the language.
This pleasant 27-year-old Lille resident, who “didn’t even go to college” but “a lot of nonsense”, is today head of the room and takes down the orders of the thirty guests that Liens welcomes for lunch from Monday to Friday. .
“I slept in the street (…) in a home for the homeless. Then I met Véronique and Christophe. They opened the doors to me. Since then, I have my small apartment and I have learned lots of stuff!” he said.
However, the members of Liens feel suspended following the recent takeover of the former stud farms by the town hall of Rodez, which remains vague about its plans.