Stefania Salerno, setec hydratec and project sponsor, tells us about her experience
“On December 13, 2023, I visited the Travail et Vie association’s new integration laundry workshop in its new premises at CAP 18 in Paris.
The visit took place in the morning, when the laundry opened.
I was accompanied by technical supervisor Jeanne Couvreur, who has been working for the laundry for around a year and who has followed this workshop creation project from the outset, as well as all phases of the move from the old premises.
Nine women are currently working for the laundry, but at the time of the visit only six were present. These women come from various countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia and Romania. They often don’t speak French very well, and very few of them speak English, but they have been taking language courses since they arrived at the laundry.
During another visit to the old premises, I had the opportunity to meet some of them and share with them a discovery activity on the water cycle. As part of this activity, the women spoke up, asked questions and became interested in the subject.
Despite language difficulties, all the women were able to express themselves and share their water-related habits. A number of concepts concerning drinking water and water treatment were introduced.
We were also able to talk about rivers, and in particular the Seine. Most of the women, although living in Paris, had never had the opportunity to see the Seine and its surroundings, but they were keen to learn about the river’s characteristics and see it up close. To satisfy this curiosity, a few weeks later the technical supervisor organized a group outing to the banks of the Seine.
During this second visit to the new premises, Jeanne showed me the different areas of the laundry. These are very well delineated, and seem to optimize the organization of work as well as moments of relaxation.
Two large main rooms are dedicated to dirty and clean linen, separated by the new washing machines and dryers. Small written instructions guide employees in their daily work and also remind them of French lessons.
A checkroom has been set up in one of the rooms, where each employee has her own locker.
The kitchen is very welcoming and spacious. The girls always have lunch together in this room, and once a week one of them prepares the meal for all the others. This allows them to exchange ideas, share their own culture and learn new recipes using local, seasonal produce. The menus, devised by the employees with Jeanne’s help, provide an opportunity to reflect on the construction of a more balanced diet and careful spending.
The technical supervisor also pays particular attention to the employees’ overall health. They are guided in all their preventive/medical procedures for themselves and their children.
A small sports activity is organized every morning to “wake up” the muscles before starting work. I had the opportunity to take part in this activity myself.
During this activity, the girls felt free to share their previous evening or a few anecdotes, as well as their daily worries with the group, the technical supervisor and myself. I got the impression that the laundry isn’t just a place to work, but a space where they feel safe and where they can also take a break from their daily routine.”