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Volunteering at Les Invalides in Paris France
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Volunteering at Les Invalides in Paris France

I have currently been in France a little over 18 months. I decided to move to Paris when my daughter informed me that her husband's company was transferring him to their Paris office. He was working in the corporate office in Paris for 3 years and they would return to America after this time. When my family first moved away I was at a loss and missed my daughter and grandchildren so much. I had my volunteering job at the local veterans' hospital near my home. This took up most of my day but the nights were so lonely alone without the grandchildren running around.

On one of my visits to the hospital the young soldier I had been helping was ready to be released and go home to his family. We sat and had a long talk this day. I told him about my family and being in France. He asked me why I did not go there to be closer to them. I had never given this a thought before he mentioned this to me. We sat and talked for hours this day and he told me about Paris and all the fantastic sights he saw. He explained to me that in Paris there is a Military Hospital called Les Invalides. He started to tell me about how the building was constructed; it had museums, monuments, hospital, retirement home, and a burial site for some of France's war heroes. I sat there daydreaming as he spoke.

This evening I went home and waited for the time to call my daughter. I wanted to speak with her and find out how hard it would be for me to come and stay with her in France. My daughter was so excited and overwhelmed that I wanted to move to France to stay with them. She promised me that they would make all the necessary arrangement for my residence visa and stay in France. I just needed to prepare my suitcase and get on the plane. Well this was not as simple as it sounded. I had a little more work to do than packing a suitcase and ordering my plane ticket.

Finally the day came I was ready for the big adventure. I had all of my affairs in order and my visa was waiting for me in France. I had been brushing up on my French which I had not used in years. I ordered all my special spices that were not available in France and had all my papers in order. The day came and I boarded the airplane for the adventure of a lifetime. I was more excited than the two grandchildren the day they left for France.

I had been searching for a hospital I could volunteer at during my stay in France. I wanted to help the men who fought for their country. I had been corresponding with the director at the Les Invalides in Paris France. She was so excited to meet me and wanted to come to the airport when I arrived. I explained it would take me a few days to settle in and get adjusted to the time change. She understood and arranged a meeting for me the following week.

I arrived at Les Invalides in Paris France and was amazed to see this building. I could not believe the size of the building and all the history that was inside. I am happy that Ms. Pierre met me at the entrance of the building. She walked right up to me and said you must be Mrs. Sinclair. I was very surprised that she picked me out from the rest of the visitors that day.

I had a wonderful meeting and a tour of the hospital, retirement center, and museums. She knew so much of the history of France I was amazed. I had to apologize on several occasions for using the wrong context when I spoke. She said it was not a problem and she understood what I was saying. I told her it had been years since I spoke French and I had tried to brush up on my rusty French before arriving. She was laughing and told me that I would have plenty opportunities to brush up on my French during my stay in Paris.

I have been volunteering at the hospital 3 days a week and visiting with the folks in the retirement home twice a week. I am enjoying my stay in France and hearing all the stories these young men have to tell. I have been working closely with an extraordinary young man who is only 26 years old. He came home from Africa wounded when his battalion was ambushed unexceptionally. He lost one of his eyes, was shot in the upper arm, and his leg was trapped under the jeep when it turned over. His leg was so badly damaged and in order to save his life they amputated the lower half of his leg. He was stabilized in Africa and flown home to France. He has been in the hospital here for 8 months now.

France has extremely high tech medicine and the facility here is very different than the ones in America. The families have a chance to live in the rooms with the soldiers. Here each room is specially decorated to make the men feel more at home. I enjoy visiting Basile each day. One visit I asked him if his name had any special significance and he said yes. My name if you translate it means King. I told him this name was very suited for him and he should be proud that his parents gave him such a name of honor.

When I first met Basile he was like so many other soldiers I knew in America. He felt like his life had ended and there was not much to live for. The day I started to visit Basile he was very withdrawn and only stared out the window. He did not want to talk much. Finally he started to open up and told me that his girlfriend came to visit. Her visit did not go well when she saw his leg and eye. She was in shock and broke down crying and ran out of the room. This had put Basile into a deeper depression than he was already in. I was determined to help Basile and his girlfriend work out all their problems so they could get married and live a happy life together.

As the weeks passed Basile started to improve. His eye had healed and he was fitted for a glass eye. This made him look handsome and I made sure that his girlfriend was there when he returned. She was surprised at the eye and how natural it looked. She was pleased and said he was beautiful and told him how much she loved him. From that day forward his moral and depressed improved. He was no longer depressed and was eager to complete his therapy sessions and be released from the hospital.

Basile was having problems with the artificial leg they fitted him with. He could not adjust to wearing this and said that it hurt too badly to learn to use it. Basile was very athletic and I knew he was being difficult. His girlfriend and I worked hard to convince him to learn to walk with the artificial leg. She promised him they would get married if he would just get out of the hospital. She said that she did not want him standing in the church on crunches she wanted him standing on his own two legs.

Basile was fitted with 4 different artificial legs before they found one that was comfortable for him to wear and learn to walk with. He was released from the hospital 6 weeks later. I was invited to attend their wedding a few months back. I keep in touch with Basile and his wife and have visited them at their home many times. I enjoy being in Paris and I am happy that I can volunteer here to fill my days. I look forward to my return home to America but I know when I leave Paris I will miss it greatly and all the wonderful new friends I have here.

 

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  1. Zun
    Zun
    Julie, what a wonderful story. I am from Tahiti and yes Paris is beautiful and I am so happy you have a chance to live there for any length of time.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Zun it is very nice to meet you. I would love to visit Tahiti one day. France is an adventure and there is so much to see and do here. Thank you for visiting with me and leaving me such a lovely comment. Julie
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  2. Nita
    Nita
    Dear Julie; What a wonderful story. You have inspired me to try and visit France and also visit this Hospital. If driving were possible then I would like to try and volunteer at the V A Hospital here in nmy hometown. Good story and keep these wonderful stories coming. Nita
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Dear Nita: I am so happy you have read my story. I am sorry you cannot drive to work at the hospital near your home. May I suggest that you call and see if they have a shuttle service to help people like you that cannot drive. I am sure they would love to pick you up and bring you home. They are always looking for people who want to share their time with others.
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  3. Justin Hopkins
    Julie; I started to follow you. I enjoy reading your stories and interested to see more. This is amazing you do not want to sit back and just enjoy France. You are there to help others. Congratulations on all of your efforts and keep up the good work.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Thank you Justin my dear. I am afraid to stop here in Paris. I know we will only be here a few more months. I have visited so much of Paris and love the city so much. I just want to keep as active here as I am at home. When I return home I will need all of my energy to keep helping there.
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  4. pftsusan
    pftsusan
    You are very caring with the men and women serving us. Voted.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Thank you so much Ms Susan.I have read all of your stories and I am following you so I do not miss more. I am so sorry I have not had time to answer to you. This weekend was so busy and the children are back in school after the holiday. I have enjoyed all of your articles and may I say your blog is amazing. The information is informative and your love shines through. God Bless you so much and may everyone around you fill your life with happiness.
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  5. Kou Livingston
    Grandma Sinclair how many hospitals do you volunteer at? This is amazing you are such a loving Grandma. Will you be my Grandma. I lost both of my Grandmothers when I was very young. I wish you were my Grandmother.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Kou my dear I only volunteer at two. The one in America is my regular hospital to volunteer and I have only volunteered here during my stay in France. When I return home I will go back to my hospital near my home
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  6. Christine Mulligan
    This is so sweet you brought tears to my eyes on how you helped this young man to get married. You are a very special woman.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Thank you Ms Crhistine dear
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  7. Zoe Watson
    You should be spending your days sightseeing and enjoying your life in Paris. No you are working everyday to help others. You are a very special person Julie.
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    1. Zoe Watson
      Forgot to say please keep up the good work. I am following you and can't wait to read another one of your stories.
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      1. Julie Sinclair
        Julie Sinclair
        Thank you dear Zoe but I need to keep busy even if I am in Paris. I do not consider this a holiday I just moved here for a short time to be close to my family
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  8. Elaine Herandez
    I love Paris I spent 6 months there a few years back. I was so sad when I left to go back home. I have always wanted to go back. Enjoy your stay in France because when you go home you will miss it so much. I did.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Thank you Granny my dear I too enjoy France and have a lot of fond memories of the good times I have spent here so far.
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  9. Scott Desmond
    When I was a kid my parents took my sister and I on a vacation to France. We were dragged all over to see all the museums and sights. I visited this when I was 11. I did not appreciate it like I would today.
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    1. Julie Sinclair
      Julie Sinclair
      Thank you Scott dear I can see being a child here in Paris you might not like it as much as I do now. As you grow older you learn to appreciate all that is around you. When you are younger all you want is to visit amusement parks and have fun.
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