Readers’ tips: What are the best charities in France to donate to?

Each week The Local asks its readers to share their tips about various aspects of living in France. This week we asked their opinion on which charities in France they think are worth considering donating to. Here's what they had to say.

Readers' tips: What are the best charities in France to donate to?
Photo: Depositphotos

Even if you have the best of intentions when you move abroad, finding a charity to donate to probably isn't going to be at the top of your list. 

And even once you've settled in, finding the one with a cause that resonates with you enough to make you want to hand over some of your hard earned cash every month might not be as simple as it sounds. 

Also, you may have noticed that in France shopping areas aren't exactly filled with charity shops like they are in other countries so that means you can't do your bit by investing in some second hand goods either. 

With that in mind, we asked our readers for tips on which charities in France they think are worth considering donating to. 

Photo: AFP

Reader Francine Gloaguen Curtner recommended the Petites Soeurs des Pauvres (Little Sisters of the Poor) charity which sees nuns and volunteers help the elderly poor regardless of ethnicity or religion. 

“They do so much for lonely and poor people,” said Francine. “My friend who was a widow with a very small pension called them to see where she could find some help. They took her in till her last day. 

“They give dignity to the old and poor. The nuns and the volunteers are so wonderful.”

Another reader Trisna Nana Soemarno recommended Les Restos du Coeur, a French charity which distributes food packages and hot meals to the homeless, as well as those on very low incomes.

And not only do they do very necessary work but this charity also has a special status known reconnu d'utilité publique (recognised public service) which means your donation will be exempt from specific taxes, said Trisna.

If you make a donation before December 31st you will see 66 percent of that donation taken off your tax bill next year however it's important to remember that the donation can be no more than 20 percent of your taxable income, a system which is used by the French government as incentive for people to donate.

Here's the link to a government site where you can download a list of all the charities in France that have this special status

One of the charities on the list Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), an international humanitarian medical organisation of French origin best known for its projects in conflict zones and in countries affected by endemic diseases, was also recommended by a reader.

Photo: AFP

Meanwhile Louise Doddrell recommended donating items such as clothes, kitchen stuff, small pieces of furniture to Secours Populaire, a charity dedicated to fighting poverty, donating large items of furniture to Emmaus, which also works to combat poverty.

Reader Ujwala Samant recommended donating to your local food bank (banque alimentaire) or church food collection.

“Most folks aren't aware that this is a year-round need and that when the school year ends, those in need have even less food to feed their children,” said Ujwala. 

“It's a hard sell to get the partnership with supermarkets and donors to consistently give. I can't imagine a child coming to class on an empty stomach. Hence, I think it would be a wonderful idea to donate to your local food pantry (if your church has one) or banque alimentaire. Preferably, year round.”

Another reader recommended a charity set up by Italian actor who acted mainly in French films Lino Ventura called Perce-Neige, which helps people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as physical and mental disabilities. 

Meanwhile, if you're someone who would like to donate to an animal charity, one reader recommended SPA (Society for the Protection of Animals) for abandoned dogs, cats and other pets.

“This summer was a very bad year for abandons. Chien Visiteur is very good, volunteers take their pets to visit retirement or handicapped homes, but I am not sure if it's a charity.”


Why are there (almost) no charity shops in France?

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Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets… and tips to avoid them

If you're someone who has had their holiday to France ruined by a pickpocket, then you're certainly not alone. And it isn't only in the French capital that you have to watch out.

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets... and tips to avoid them
One reader said that people should watch out for pickpockets at Lyon train station (pictured above). Photo: AFP
A recent report revealed that 2019 has seen a surge of cases of pickpocketing on the Paris metro. But the French capital isn't the only place in France where you need to watch out for petty crime. 
We asked our readers who know France well to tell us where else in the country you need to be that extra bit cautious about your handbag, wallet or phone and for any advice on keeping possessions safe.  
Unsurprisingly many of the places mentioned by readers were in cities with high levels of tourism. 
One of the places that came up again and again was the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with readers noting that thieves tend to operate around the train station, old town and the very popular Christmas markets. 

Photo: AFP

“I was targeted by pickpockets in Strasbourg walking near the old town. Two women – a 40-year-old woman with a 20-year-old girl — walked very close behind me, as I was walking very fast, and tried opening a small shoulder bag,” said Greg Moore from the US. 
Another reader said that they “watched a group of girls working the crowd at the Christmas markets.”
The beautiful southern French city of Nice was also highlighted by several readers as a place where it is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings. 
One reader noted that there are “pickpockets in abundance” and that the city in general “is horrible for pickpocketing”. 
“My credit and debit cards were stolen and used when we visited there a few years ago,” they said. 
Lyon, the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is very popular with tourists who are drawn to the city for its architecture, culture – and of course the world famous cuisine. 
But while it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by beautiful surroundings, Lyon was also highlighted by readers as a place to be cautious. 
Linda Martz, who has lived in the city for three years, told us that a pickpocket stole her wallet while she boarded a train. 
And another reader Sandra Beard told us that drivers should be particularly careful due to “scam artists” targeting people with cars.      
There are “scam artists who “help” you at parking ticket machines while they palm (and take) your credit card (and tells you the machine took your card),” she said.
“They have your PIN after looking over your shoulder,” she said, adding that when this happened to her the man “withdrew €5,000 from three banks before we froze our account (within 10 mins).”
Photo: AFP
It might not be so surprising that the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera, which has a reputation as a bit of a playground for the rich, was also on readers' lists, with one saying that his brother was pickpocketed as he stepped onto a train at Cannes train station. 
Meanwhile reader Leslie White, who lives in Paris, said she and her husband were “hit with the 'bird poop scam'” while strolling in the grounds of the Domaine de Chantilly in northern France. 
“A plop of green goop landed on my head. A helpful couple walking behind us helped to clean us off with disposable wipes. My husband somehow had some on him too. They also cleaned out his wallet and of course it was they who had thrown the 'poop' at me in the first place. We didn’t figure it out until the next day,” she said. 
Other readers mentioned Tours train station and tram stop, the market in Arles – where reader Sue Byford said her gold necklace was snatched from her neck – and Disneyland, where one person told us they had their new phone stolen, as specific places where pickpockets operate.  
Police around France are aware of the high levels of pickpocketing in certain cities and have offered advice on how to avoid becoming a target, including avoiding the “temptation to make valuables, such as expensive handbags and jewellery, too visible or easy to take”. 
They have also advised caution when sitting on the terrasse of a bar or café. 
It's important to be “very vigilant, do not leave a wallet or phone on a table, in front of everyone” or leave your valuables in your jacket if you leave it slung over a chair,” the Rouen police previously told the French press. 
Our readers also had some suggestions of their own, including using zip ties on bags and neck pouches for credit cards and your phone. 
One reader said they take the extra precaution of putting mini-locks on all the zippers on their backpack. 
Two readers pointed out that unfortunately it is “necessary to be wary of friendly people”.
“Any distraction is an opportunity,” said one.