Xavier Mantoy: "I feel very lucky"

Xavier Mantoy works at Orange Labs in Caen. He has also been supporting VA (Volontaires pour les personnes avec autisme - Volunteers for People with Autism) for the past 3 years, by helping the parents of a child with autism.

How did you become a volunteer for VA?
Marie-Françoise Sacré, the Foundation’s Philanthropy and Solidarity Manager for the Normandy-Centre region, told me about the opportunity during last year’s volunteering week. I was very motivated, I wanted to do something. I got in touch with Sophie Kiszko, the organisation’s psychologist, who explained what autism is and what VA volunteers do.
Before that, I didn’t know anything about autism. I feel very lucky: I have a job, I’m healthy and my children are grown. I thought it was important to help out and give my time.

Xavier Mantoy Orange Labs volunteering week autism

What do you do with VA?
I’ve been taking care of a child who has autism since 2012. He’s 14 now.
I see him 3 times a week. On Monday evenings and Saturday mornings when we go for a walk, do some handy work or go shopping, and on Tuesday evenings. I do activities that he can manage, he has severe autism. He barely talks at all and does things impulsively.

What are the benefits of being a volunteer?
There are a lot of benefits for me and for his family. It’s a virtual necessity for his family. His mother is single and having me around gives her the opportunity to do things that are difficult or impossible otherwise, like going shopping, or to the doctor, or getting a haircut. It also gives her a break and someone to talk to. And the for the boy, too - I can take care of him without his mother’s help and help him do physical exercises that he can’t do at school.
And I really enjoy spending time with him and seeing the progress he makes. He’s even starting to say a few words. He recognizes me, and he asks for me by saying "WHEREISE?" He can also express his feelings: signs of affection, happiness (I can recognize his laugh and smile), unhappiness and frustration. He hardly ever hits his head now. He is very endearing.

Do you have other commitments?
In honour of Volunteering Week, I’m also working with the Basse-Normandie Autism Association: I’m organising a special day for families at the Jurques Zoo (Calvados), thanks to support from the Orange Foundation, which selected my project. Families affected by autism will be accompanied by Orange volunteers. Getting ready for the event is a big investment. But it’s important for the families, because it’s hard for them to get out of the house. Their lives are exhausting. In the past I’ve also been involved in sports clubs, school parents’ associations, and the works council at my job.

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