Free art classes for disadvantaged children in Marseille

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French children who can’t afford to go on holiday are instead finding their summer escape in free art and swimming classes.

Volunteers are devoting their time to helping the youngsters in Marseille, one of the most disadvantaged cities in France.

Some 150 summer camps are on offer in Marseille with up to 13,000 children set to benefit from the programme. 

Anna Chamoulaud, project manager at the Arts et Développement association, said her charity’s five-day art course was designed for children unable to leave Marseille during the summer. 

“We feel a real divide in these neighbourhoods. There are families who can’t leave or can’t afford [transport] tickets to go back to their families,” Chamoulaud said, adding: “This situation has been largely worsened by the COVID crisis.”

Chamoulaud’s art project is in Marseille’s 14th district, where more than 40% of the population lives in poverty. 

Children learn about Picasso and have a chance to make their own paintings, with many depicting sunny scenes like Marseille’s coastline. 

Another charity, meanwhile, is providing free, week-long swimming courses. Marseille has a ratio of swimming pools per capita six times lower than the national average, according to a 2018 government report, and it’s feared that is having an impact on the number of people who know how to swim. 

This summer, the ‘Marseille, Capitale de la Mer’ charity will provide free lessons for 150 children at one of the city’s pools. 

Patrick Fancello, president of the association, said: “What’s important is that they progress. So for a little one who is even afraid of water, our goal is that after five days he can get in the water. 

“If they splash around a bit then after five days they should be able to swim 25 metres.”