School bag

L U D O V I C   B A R I L L O T

4   83 School bag

I am an educateur, a member of the family of social work professions. I am French, living in Barbezieux, and for fourteen years I lived and worked on the Ile de Réunion in the Indian Ocean where I created a volunteer association, Arts et Traditions. This has the aim to develop the potential of disadvantaged people who are in need through the production of domestic crafts (such as curtains, bags, drumsticks, table settings, etc.) They could do this with no financial assistance.

I chose School bag because …

… it reminds me of my motivation as an educateur. It has always been to help people in need and their families to rediscover their balance, energy, pride and dignity, in order to regain a rightful place in society. My son wore this school bag every day to school in Réunion and he still has the bag to this day. It was made within the Arts et Traditions association.

The work of an educateur (socio-educational action) is both with individual young people and their families and also to be a part of the social whole. Learning the Creole language helped that process.

Culturally speaking, when I arrived in Ile de Réunion in 1970 I sensed a culturally degraded situation, a society of Planters in an old colony but changing and aspiring to Western-style life-style. Whatever one’s place in this society it felt devalued and not self-reliant. There was massive importation from France and an economic monoculture of sugar, resulting in under-employment and huge unemployment and lack of professional qualifications.

Socially speaking, large sections of the population desired change: to live differently, and earn an income from an activity. And politically speaking, the scale of the needs led elected officials to favour the development of basic infrastructure (schools, hospitals, housing, roads, etc.)

It is in this context that Arts et Traditions was created to develop production of small domestic crafts requiring traditional know-how and to develop this production through exhibitions and the like, to create income for the creators.

The membership grew quickly and the status of families in difficulty strengthened markedly as they became authors of their own destiny. There developed a strong and growing demand for these hand-made products from Réunion and an opening of new relationships (with others and with traditional culture) amongst people in need.

Income derived directly from their activities in arts and crafts allowed home improvements and electrical equipment, opening of bank accounts and the other kinds of social and economic activities that help people feel part of the broader society. The social workers involved were seen both as community activists without losing their ‘original’ role as social and educational action professionals.

Arts et Traditions has now over 40 years of existence. Craft production has diversified and exhibitions are well-received. The poorest families testify that it is “life changing”.

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