Together with Jean Lemba, Jacques founded AFSCS (African French Speaking Community Support) in 2005. At the time, both volunteered supporting their fellow members from the French community in Birmingham with interpretation, reading and responding to letters, attending appointments, making phone calls and anything else that was needed.
The organisation registered as a charity in 2012, with Jacques now holding the role of Chair of AFSCS. Jacques explains that the language barrier has the biggest impact on members of the French speaking communities in the area, thereby putting them at a major disadvantage, “Because of the language barrier, many people can't access mainstream services, don't understand what is going on, [such as with] the formation around COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccination. So this has been at the heart of the services we have been providing, including the social media studio, where we are doing many campaigns in French around all topics.”
There is also lack of support for children and young people as well as older people that AFSCS identified, “We are working around those issues, to address them and try to help the community to overcome them. For example, many who come to our drop-in centre don't know that, if they are on low income, they can benefit from some funding. So, we step in to say that if you are in need, genuinely, and you can't afford to buy this, we can help.”
Jacques describes how AFSCS has changed its approach over the last few years to make more use of social media to support the community, “It's a powerful tool, because when you put on information, more than 1,000 people can attend the event and can catch the information, it's really powerful. Nowadays, everyone is on Facebook, people can access YouTube, and it's a way to tell people that those media are not only for rubbish stuff, but it's also for things which impact your lives. So, this is what we try to tell people that, of course, you can be tempted to look at whatever you want, but if you're connected to our channel, you learn more, and you can improve your living conditions, because we do give the right information for you.”
In future, Jacques and AFSCS would like to focus on immigration advice and supporting families, “We can see that many families are struggling to deal with kids or other issues. So having a community family support worker working with those families, that will be great.”
This support already began during the early days of the pandemic, “During COVID we distributed 48 laptops to low income families for home-schooling. And one month ago, we collected 10 desktop computers from Birmingham City Council and we refurbished them to give away to families.”
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