Care for the Community - Samu Social de Paris
Caring for others is built into our DNA. The recent pandemic has tested our strength, but it has also given us new opportunities to take care of people in need. Benjamin Ostrowka (Director of B2C and La Teleassistance, Europ Assistance France) and Émilia Robakowski (Chief Operating Officer, Generali Concierge Services) share the positive – and sometimes unexpected – effects of our people teaming up to help families across Paris.
Benjamin, what has our company been doing with Samusocial and how did it start?
It all began with a call to the French Health Ministry, early on in the pandemic. We let them know we wanted to help and asked where Europ Assistance could put its strengths and resources to good use. They put us in touch with Samusocial de Paris, an association dedicated to helping the homeless. They needed help. They had families spread out around the city, and asked us give them a hand assisting these people in need. We conduct what we call the “first filter,” calling each family to identify pressing needs, including food, inquire about their health, find out if they are experiencing any potential symptoms of Covid-19 and so on.
Émilia, how did Generali Concierge Services get involved?
Benjamin reached out to us and we jumped right in. We had ten employee volunteers who were happy to have a chance to volunteer time and help. These families are living in very difficult situations, often single mothers with children who have nowhere to stay due to the lockdown. Every day we split the family caseload with Benjamin’s team, then start doing calls to contact families. Samusocial provides a script to follow for these calls so that we know what to ask about, and every day our concierges identify ten or fifteen emergency situations that we immediately report to Samusocial so that they can resolve them. For example getting food to a family with a young baby who doesn’t have enough to eat, or sending medicine to people who are ill. In the event of suspicious symptoms that might indicate a case of Covid-19, they call in special teams from ARS France to handle the case.
Benjamin, what kind of numbers are we talking about?
We have somewhere between fifteen and twenty employee volunteers involved. Overall Samusocial covers roughly fifteen thousand households around Paris, and they asked us to help with a third of those. We immediately organized ourselves to get trained by the SamuSocial de Paris and start the operation. We’ve already helped over one thousand families and are willing to continue as long as we operationally can do it.
Émilia, what has this experience been like for our employees?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are telling me how thankful they are that Europ Assistance made it possible for them to participate. But it’s not always an easy job. One person on my team decided to quit the initiative because it’s a truly difficult emotional challenge. You have to remember these are very poor families, living in real crisis situations. Yet most of the feedback has been quite positive. One of my concierges told me that he called a family that didn’t even know there was a place organized for them in a hotel. They were living on the streets with their children. He described how wonderful it felt to be able to help them. It brings a lot of value to our daily work. It makes us feel humble and empathetic. The experience really drives home the fact that helping others during emergencies is what we do best.