Every week, multiple times a week, Serve the City volunteers set out in teams with trolleys full of sandwiches and thermoses full of coffee. Their goal is to show compassion to people living on the streets and in the parks of Paris—many of whom are migrants who have come searching to escape conflict and persecution, or just to find a better life. Critics of such a program point out that giving out food is no more than a band-aid on the problem… or worse, perhaps enabling it to continue.
But there is a method behind their merciful madness. The coffee and sandwich are merely means of showing compassionate kindness, of making friends, and inviting these isolated people into community. From there, the goal is transformation of each person, and integration into their new culture.
In this episode, Safi Ebrahim, Partnership and Programs manager for STC Paris, and Peter DeWitt, a former STC Paris director, lay out for us how compassion can change the trajectory of the life of an immigrant. And Safi should know, as he himself came to Paris as a refugee from Afghanistan! He shares his journey of finding first the means of communication, and then a door to community, as he encountered Serve the City volunteers and became one himself. Be inspired by the stories these two remarkable people helpers as they recount the changes in people’s lives, nourished through kindness.
Listen to this episode here:
Peter and Safi spoke with us together via Zoom from Paris. You can see on their faces and hear from their voices that they treasure their friendship.
Safi with a food distribution group from Serve the City Paris (in the jeans jacket at right). Tom Wilscam, the STC Paris City Leader, whom Safi met at his first language exchanges, is in the centre with his dog.
Peter leading a food distribution team. Peter and Safi first met several years ago when Safi joined his team as a volunteer, looking for community in his new country of France.
Last autumn, Safi started working as the Partnerships and Programs Manager for Serve the City Paris. He oversees programs that benefit immigrants such as language classes and one-on-one exchanges, friendship programs, and connecting refugees with partners that offer services to them.
You can read more of Safi’s story here: