Philippe Evrard makes connections

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. on the Cité des Platanes estate, Narbonne.
This is where, along with five other Orange employee volunteers,
Philippe Evrard can be found every week, running IT workshops for the Traveller community. Philippe, who manages a team of order and delivery experts, began volunteering in April 2012 with the Orange Solidarité Numérique programme (ODS – Orange digital solidarity), in partnership with AMPG, the local association supporting travellers. For an hour and a half he took pleasure in the simple act of sharing his expertise: “The satisfaction of helping others is enough,” he explains.
Philippe’s decision to pass on his knowledge was born of an awareness that not everyone had the same opportunities he enjoyed: “At France Telecom it was a natural step to start using the internet, as part of our work.” So, when he heard about ODS during the “hello tour” organised by Orange in 2011, he signed up as a volunteer. It was something he had wanted to do for a while, but lack of time prevented this father of three daughters, ages 14, 16 and 18, to take the first step.

Philippe particularly enjoyed the openness of the setting provided by this initiative. It’s a place where listening without prejudice is king, and the ice is easily broken. He talks of an experience that was enriching, through which he has come to know a group of people who are often stigmatised by society, and for whom he quickly developed an affection for. “They are all very friendly and warm. When I missed a session and didn’t see them, I really missed them,” he confides, making no bones of talking about “ties of friendship”.

 

"When I missed a session and didn’t see them, I really missed them."

 

And the fact that this sense of lacking something was shared by his students fills him with pride: “When I had to travel for work, I heard that they were asking where I was, when I was coming back… I was touched.” He was also proud to see his work bear fruit, especially when he remembers a very committed young couple who built a professional website: “They carried on making improvements, on their own. It was great to see them so motivated.” Despite the happy atmosphere, the sessions at the Platanes began to run out of steam, and the partnership with AMPG was suspended. While waiting for the digital workshops to start up again with AMPG in Narbonne, Philippe didn’t just twiddle his thumbs! He made a new commitment, to Habitat and Humanism NGO in Béziers. And, still in 2013, he and his colleagues instigated a one year partnership between ODS and the Youth association of Razimbaud, a disadvantaged sector of Narbonne.
For young people to the not-so-young, the digital world breaks down barriers and isolation… to the extent that Philippe is currently introducing some thirty “seniors” to the joys of the keyboard, with new digital workshops launched in Narbonne in May 2014. An exercise in citizenship has a duty to offer support to all those who need it most.

Portrait by Magali Sennane.

 

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