Stays in Conques

December 2020

As throughout this health crisis, Limbo has decided to maintain the Christmas holiday. In these difficult times of tension and loneliness, our young people need it more than ever. Not all of them were able to come and several had to cancel at the last moment: their requests for asylum were refused. But Gracia, Julie, Moctar, Makalou, Adama and Guei, Bobo and Djiby, Mariama and Reza, were able to go, and you will get to know them over the accounts of the week.
The medieval village of Conques, marked by the current health situation and the festive season, was calmer than ever. A welcome calm in these chaotic times, adding to the traumas already present in the survivors. As usual, our therapeutic stay took place around these moments of calm, art therapy sessions and moments of conviviality with the inhabitants who warmly welcomed us into their homes.


[Rebuilding the survivors] - Day 1

Our train arrives at 5.40 am at the Saint-Christophe station. Brother Cyrille, at the wheel of the abbey van, arrives at the station car park. 30 minutes later, we arrive in Conques under a thick cloud of fog, while it is still dark. Cleo, one of the supervisors, is already there to welcome us. We rest in our rooms before meeting at the Grange for the first group circle.

In order to get off to a good start, Cléo begins the "1st circle", a necessary moment of introduction if we want to accompany the young people in their reconstruction. It allows us to answer many questions and to establish the structure of the stay, the rules but also the needs of each person. What is Limbo? What are we going to do for a week? What can they expect from this stay? 

The first link that the young people create with the local inhabitants is with the brothers. As with this visit to the Abbey of Sainte-Foy, for example. And one understands the importance of the first circle, which helped to reassure the young people that our association is secular, and that everyone is free to practise their religion. And this is the case even if we are hosted by monks. Some have fled their country because they were persecuted for their religion. The aim is not to rekindle wounds, but to help them repair them. 

To end the day, Cleo leads a stretching session until dinner. Chronic pain, sleep disorders, tension and atrophy due to post-traumatic stress are all symptoms that these little exercises will help to relieve. And tomorrow we will start dance therapy.


[Rebuilding the survivors] - Day 2

Hot coffee in hand, skin still wrinkled from a restful sleep, we are busy transforming the "Grange", our own corner, into a place for dancing. Loredane, the dance therapist, introduces her practice and workshops. Her exercises will attempt to connect young people to themselves, to others and to their environment. It's about re-appropriating one's body through touch and voice. To be there, to exist, to feel alive and vibrant. 

Loredane undertakes a great deal of work to build relationships with others in order to regain confidence in human beings, to experience the attention, care, mutual aid and appreciation of each person. And for those survivors who have come close to death and who say to themselves "I saw myself die, so I'm dead", it's vital work to make themselves heard, to take their place within the group and to exist again.  

After a first morning in therapy, we set the table to music. These moments of sharing around a dish also help to create bonds and form a group cohesion. This cohesion is essential for this stay to be beneficial. During the art therapy sessions, for example, you need to let go, which is not easy even when you are surrounded by kindness.

After eating our fill, our faces soon start to stretch with fatigue. Our rhythm is a departure from the numbing one they know in Cada. And it's tiring. The aim is not to get exhausted though, so we take a little nap before the afternoon workshop!

The day is enriched by the arrival of Filippo, a member of the LUSINE association. A theatre teacher, Filippo introduces us to improvisation, to the management of movement in space, as well as to the play of glances. These reveal the cultural and gender differences between us and the different spaces we share in Paris. Mariama performs a scene at Gare du Nord, Bobo a sketch at Château Rouge, and we are all amazed by our performances! There is so much laughter in the air.  

[Rebuilding the survivors] - Day 3

Last day of 2020! 

Before celebrating New Year's Eve, as every morning, the day begins with the dance therapy workshop with Loredane. 

After warming-up our bodies in a circle, our art therapist proposes a sophrology exercise. A method based on breathing and relaxation. This appealed to some people, but closing one's eyes brings others back to painful memories. It may still be too early for some. And this is normal. Loredane's approach over the 5 days was progressive, becoming more and more involved as the feeling of security within the group grew stronger through involvement and the sharing of experiences. But young people need long-term support. This is why we have set up art therapy workshops once a week in Paris. 

Then we spend the afternoon in the kitchen for the New Year's Eve dinner. On the menu: Afghan rice prepared by Reza, Yassa chicken cooked by Mariama and Tiep bou diem concocted by Gracia. The dessert, a pear-chocolate log, is offered to us by the wife of our dear chef Sébastien.

It’s already early evening and it is time to receive our guests. Two musician brothers from Lusine, Laurent and Vincent, are giving a small private rock-blues concert. Julie and Raphaël, a young couple from Aveyron, who will welcome us on Sunday, are also present. Brother Pierre-Adrien and Cécile Allegra, the president of Limbo, join us with fire and joy to mark 2021. Some of them will be singing like stars behind the microphones and will even improvise several original compositions. Bobo shares with us a very beautiful text h has written. We dance, laugh and sing. It is midnight and our hearts are filled with emotion: "Happy New Year!".

They may be far from their country, family and friends, but the young people of Limbo will not be alone tonight. We will start this new year together. And together we will take another step towards reconstruction.

[Rebuilding the survivors] - Day 4

Last night's party was beautiful. Full of life, full of sharing. We give ourselves a little rest this morning: the dance therapy workshop starts later than usual. With one objective: to get rid, through movement, of everything that clutters us. It takes a lot of energy. Then we dance, always in two groups to have the necessary space. Immediately, the release gives us a great deal of energy. 

After lunch, part of the group goes for a walk in the hills of Conques. On their return, we meet Filippo for his second theatre workshop. He suggests starting it in the open air in the garden of the Family House. A comforting winter sun had appeared. Today, in order to gain self-confidence and to learn how to carry our voice, we play many games of coordination of gesture and voice. These are not trivial exercises, when we know that some of the group speak very little, if at all. Because that's also a part of exile. 

Silence is one of the recurrent symptoms of post-traumatic stress. This is what happens when you are subjected to something so brutal that you cannot assimilate it. No young person who spent time in Libya was prepared for what happened to them. In truth, no human being can be prepared for such barbarity. That is why some people still doubt the existence of concentration camps or camps in Libya: it is so violent that your system of thought cannot assimilate it. The young people of Limbo, all of whom have experienced this violence, are as if they were suspended, invaded by fixed and silent images that haunt them. They have lost all confidence in the other, who is now nothing more than a persecutor. And the only way to protect themselves from it is not to say a word to them. The bond with the other has been violated. For some in their bodies, for all psychologically. With Limbo, we try to learn how to become the subject of our lives again when we have been the object of another. 

There is a before but there will also be an after Libya.

[Rebuilding the survivors] - Day 5

The day starts with the dance therapy workshop with Loredane. We talk about the myth of the Phoenix rising from its ashes, stronger. "You're all phoenixes," Loredane tells the young people, who gain a little more self-confidence every day. She asks the participants to write on a piece of paper what they wish to leave at that fire and no longer carry in their lives. On another, they write what they wish to give to the water and earn in their lives. In silence... everyone takes the time to think about it. It is a complicated exercise for some. Then, all together, in the company of Cécile and Brother Pierre-Adrien, we go to the river. In music, one after the other, we leave to the fire what we no longer want in our lives and we give to the river our wishes for tomorrow.

Après un bon déjeuner, nous nous rendons à quelques minutes en voiture de Conques. Certains visitent le village voisin pendant que d’autres participent à l’atelier de bijoux de Marie Dominique. Ancienne fromagère, Marie Dominique s’est reconvertie il y a quelques années et vit maintenant de sa passion. Elle nous explique son artisanat, nous montre les différents outils qu’elle a à disposition et répond aux nombreuses questions des jeunes. C’est aussi ça, la beauté de Limbo et de Conques. La vie en commun, la solidarité et l’échange dans un environnement sécurisant.

[Réparer les survivants] - Jour 6

A nouveau ce matin, nous nous concentrons tout particulièrement sur un travail autour de la voix. C’est bientôt la fin du séjour, et cette semaine a permis une réelle dynamique de groupe avec beaucoup d’attention, de soutien des uns par les autres et de tolérance. Le groupe Whatsapp nous permettra de rester en lien, et Lorédane nous propose déjà de se revoir chez elle autour d’un repas à la fin du mois. 

L’après-midi, nous allons chez Julie et Raphaël, des habitants de la région. Leur maison si chaleureuse est située dans les collines, au bord de la majestueuse rivière du Lot. Nous profitons du beau temps pour aller nous balader. Julie nous fait visiter leur potager et nous présente ses poules : Dallas, Pierrette et Dwayne, qui amusent beaucoup les jeunes. Raphaël sort un ballon et, ni une ni deux, une partie de foot s’improvise sur les rives du Lot.

Nous retournons nous mettre au chaud et dégustons notre première galette des rois de l’année. Ce sont Makalou, Bobo et Guéi qui ont les fèves ! Ils arborent avec fierté leurs couronnes. Nous terminons l’après-midi en jouant à des jeux de société et en savourant ce moment privilégié et hors du temps au coin de la cheminée, tellement reconnaissants de cette invitation.

C’est bientôt l’heure de dire au revoir. Nous devons rentrer à Conques et officiellement clôturer ce séjour par le « dernier cercle ». Un peu comme celui que nous avons fait au tout début du séjour. Cécile y participe, elle encourage les participants à poursuivre ce cheminement vers la résilience. Malgré la force du séjour, des quotidiens chargés attendent les demandeurs d’asile à la porte de Paris. Pour clôturer ce cercle, chacun récupère sa bougie offerte par Monique, une habitante de Conques que nous avons cessé de croiser tout au long de notre séjour. Sur les bougies nous pouvons lire « révolution fraternelle ». C’est un souvenir lumineux et plein de sens que nous pourrons ramener avec nous à Paris.