A Story of Empowerment – Nesrine, 26 – France

Date: 23 May 2012

It was autumn 2011 when I arrived in France with the aim of studying at the University of Le Havre.  I am an Algerian young woman who, like some other young people, leave my homeland to study in another country.

I moved to France with the idea of following my career studies. The fact of moving and being alone in a new country was not easy, especially because I did not have family or friends around to help me in this new chapter of my life. Le Havre has been my first experience abroad and over there I got involved with the YMCA.  I was looking for accommodation and I found it at the UCJG/ YMCA Student Residence.

I was afraid to be alone in a new city, in a new culture, it was a challenge for me.  However, thanks to the YMCA, it has become one of the most important experiences in my life.

More than only housing, YMCA offered me a bunch of other services and support. I have learned how to be more independent, how to make good decisions for my personal life management. The YMCA inspired me to have new ideas, to think about new projects and helped me to have more self confidence. Life as a foreigner is really difficult for many reasons; it is difficult to be included in a new society; to feel welcome, but the YMCA made me feel at home.

All people supporting us in the YMCA are very kind. The staff and directors always have time to listen, to give information and guide the young people when we have inquiries, doubts or just  want to talk about daily life. The staff team take time for young people; they are interested to know how people feel and are always willing to support, orient and help; they really try to find solutions for different situations.

From volunteer service opportunities to exchange programmes and support for job seeking, the YMCA is opening up the horizons of many young people and offering them a safe space to grow and feel empowered.  Many of the participants of La Havre programme would not have another place to go.