Perce-Neige is an association created by the French actor Lino Ventura. As the father of a mentally disabled girl, he soon realized there was a lack of specialized institutions and made an appeal to the general public about the future of this section of the population. The French public’s generous response allowed him to open a pilot center, and thus the association was founded in 1966. Lino Ventura’s work didn’t stop when he passed away though. His grandson – Christophe Lasserre-Ventura – has been president of the association for more than 20 years. Just like disability itself, Perce-Neige is a family issue.
Changing people’s perceptions of mental disability.
“Recognized as an association of public interest in 1976, Perce-Neige initially focused on providing financial support for the creation and construction of suitable facilities, before creating its own institutions as of the 1980s,” explains the association’s president. The current president became aware of the issue of disability from a very young age as he lived with his grandfather for several years as a student: “He talked to me about Perce-Neige a lot, and I helped him whenever I could. So I have always been close to my aunt, disabled people, and Perce-Neige. He asked me several times if I would take over from him as president of the association; I promised to do it.” The association has already opened more than 50 specialized institutions in France, with an underlying objective: to change society’s perception of disabled people. How? By informing the authorities of the needs of the 7,000 mentally disabled children born every year in France, and their families, and by raising awareness of this disability to promote their integration. “Fortunately, perceptions have changed and evolved over the years, but there is still a long way to go,” notes Christophe Lasserre-Ventura.
Recreating a home
The medicalized care home in Saint-Laurent-sur-Gorre (Haute-Vienne, France) has the same aim as all Perce-Neige homes: to provide shelter, support, and care for disabled people, and welcome often isolated families. The home opened in 2010, after the association had studied the needs of the region’s various structures. It provides full-time shelter for 24 mentally disabled or mentally ill men and women aged over 40. “I want our association to provide exactly what our residents and their families need,” adds the president. Priority is therefore given to people living in the Haute-Vienne department, with the double objective of keeping them in a familiar environment and facilitating contact with loved ones. “The families are involved in the residents’ lives and do a lot. Listening to them allows us to provide better care for the residents,” explains Sylvie Laroye, manager of the Saint-Laurent-sur-Gorre home. “Our residents are unable to work and need personal assistance every day. We are lucky enough to have a multidisciplinary team that are capable of meeting residents’ care needs, as well as organizing fun, educational and social activities.”
The association uses the term “home” to describe all its institutions, thereby signifying its attachment to small communities that make it easier for residents to build relationships with each other. The Home has renovated three of its kitchenettes and the common relaxation rooms that were no longer suited to the residents’ age. The Foundation’s grant has allowed the association to buy furniture and each room is now equipped with a couch and two comfortable armchairs. The residents were notably involved in choosing the furniture and building shelves to help create a warmer atmosphere. The manager sums up: “It is crucial that the residents feel comfortable because this is their home and they will stay here as long as we can provide the care that they need. We must show an attitude of benevolence and empathy every day.”
To find out more
- Perce Neige’s Website: www.perce-neige.org