François loved summer camps, both as a young participant, and, later, as an animator. He still keeps something of their spirit.
He is from the region of Chandler in Gaspésie. He grew up there and left only when time came to study at Cégep. At first, he didn’t go too far away. He earned his college degree in Social Sciences in La Pocatière. He then moved to Montreal to pursue studies in History at UQAM. Initially installed in Hochelaga, it took him some time to feel comfortable in the big city. However, he has since well acclimatized and has acquired a solid knowledge of the human and social backgrounds of its various neighborhoods through his jobs.
François has worked as a youth center animator in Centre Sud, Pointe-St-Charles and Rosemont. It is through a social services job as an outreach worker that he got to know Ahuntsic, Bordeaux and Cartierville.
He worked for five years for the Rap-Jeunesse youth organization, wich runs a mobile unit called L’Accès-soir in the northern boroughs of Montreal. Staffed by a group of direct intervention workers, this bus touring underprivileged areas on a pre-established schedule serves as a nocturnal meeting point for young people. Its crew seeks to reach out to socially isolate young adults who are going through hardships, but are reluctant to use the usual social services. According to François, working with and caring for people suffering from poverty, drug abuse and mental health issues, requires a great deal of integrity, availability and listening skills.
With a group of young people he met through his work at Rap Jeunesse, he got to know the Festiblues’ team. During an edition of this local blues festival, these young people and him were in charge of the site’s maintenance. This was, to some of them, one of their first working experiences.
Later on, François also worked on a personal basis with the site management team in subsequent editions the festival. For the sake of anecdote, when I pointed out to him that he had the right look to play as a sideman in the band behind Bernard Adamus - one of the stars of the Festiblues’ latest edition - he replied that although they actually lived in the same neighborhood, he unfortunately did not have the necessary musical skills to do so.
As the father of a young boy who is a little over 10 years old now, he eventually had to turn to a job with a schedule more compatible with family life. With his experience in youth centers and RAP Jeunesse, he was hired at the Carrefour Jeunesse emploi (CJE) of the borough. His work there was dedicated to a project named IDEO 16-17, an employability assistance program for this age group.
Today, thanks to his excellent knowledge of all local stakeholders, François is Director of the Maison des jeunes de Bordeaux-Cartierville. He has taken over this organization, which needed a new start after a six months shutdown. He sees to its financing and leads a team of animators who develop activity programs with the local youth. The offering ranges from cooking and audiovisual workshops to periods of free play. At the moment, sports are really hot. The soccer-basketball Friday night at the neighborhood YMCA is currently the most popular activity.
As the organization aims to develop independence, critical thinking and social integration among its young participants, François is particularly proud of the success of the Cooperative Jeunesse de services de Cartierville, a neighborhood project supported by the Maison des jeunes.