"Menton Livraison": Students Volunteer Aid During the Crisis

At the beginning of March 2020, while much of France was still living relatively undisturbed, Tommaso Campomagnani, Nolwenn Menard, Joseph Moussa and Mathilde de Solages, first-year students on the Menton campus, anticipated the possibility of a lockdown. In this small town on the French riviera where a third of the population is over sixty, they created Menton Livraison, a service allowing volunteers to deliver essential products to at-risk individuals. Mathilde and Nolwenn tell us about the adventure, complete with administrative obstacles and happy encounters along the way. 

How did you get the idea for creating Menton Livraison?

Mathilde: At the beginning of March, Joseph came to see us on campus and asked us for five minutes to present his idea. The same evening, all four of us gathered at his home to devise the operation of Menton Livraison, a service dedicated to helping at-risk individuals. 
Nolwenn: In truth, at that point the idea of a lockdown seemed very far away. Some people thought that we would struggle to find partners. But, at the same time, a very strange atmosphere was growing in Menton given its proximity with Italy… When we came back from holidays in February, over half of the students at Sciences Po were in quarantine because they had travelled from cities like Milan. Tommaso, who is Italian, was getting worrying news from his loved ones on the other side of the border. We were seeing the inhabitants of Menton getting more and more worried, and couldn’t help but notice the suspicious glances shot around whenever somebody coughed in public...
Mathilde: We’re all aware that Menton has a particular demographic. Although the cliché of an “elderly town” is far from true, over a third of people living in Menton are over 60! We watched what was happening in China and in Italy, the curve of progression of the virus, and thought: this is the calm before the storm.

How does Menton Livraison work? When will the service be operative? 

Mathilde: Menton Livraison is a phone number which at-risk individuals can call to order essential items listed on our website, which our volunteers then deliver to them at home. 
Nolwenn: Initially, we were thinking of an app. Then, we realised that a hotline would be much more suitable for a target group of seniors. We agreed on a voice-operated server that can record the orders and render them, either as voice recordings or as a written transcription. That way, the line is never busy and we can handle orders at the rate at which they come in. 
Mathilde: We hope to open the line between now and Thursday 26 March. We’ve already received around fifteen orders… When we began, we had no idea how long it would take to comply with administrative, legal, and health requirements! First we had to create an association, which is a simple process but takes some time. Then for every aspect of our activity there was a different process we had to follow. To deliver medication, for instance, we need to wait for the go-ahead from regional and then national organising bodies, which we have yet to receive.
Nolwenn: Fortunately, the Mayor has been a really active ally on the project. The municipal services and the Centre Communal d’Action Sociale (CCAS) have guided us in all of these procedures, they’ve put us in touch with the relevant authorities, and they’re providing us with invaluable items for everyone’s safety, volunteers and recipients, like masks, gloves, hand sanitiser...

Who are you counting on to help you? 

Mathilde: We’ve got the participation of the Félix Faure Carrefour City, which has been a very cooperative partner. The franchise is run by several individuals who got on board with the project straight away. They were the ones who provided us with the list of essential items most frequently bought by customers. Of course, if our clients/recipients want other products, they can request them, but the availability of the products listed on our site is guaranteed by the shop. 
For a small town like Menton and a small supermarket like the Félix Faure Carrefour City (CCAS) (which usually only has one delivery person), volunteer assistance is essential in order to tackle the huge amount of orders that the CCAS has already received.

What are your team’s strengths?

Nolwenn: All of us bring our knowledge, abilities, and personal experiences to the table. Especially since we come from different backgrounds: Tommaso, who is Italian, lived in Tenerife before coming to Sciences Po; Joseph is Lebanese and lived in Saudi Arabia; Mathilde is French and was living in Holland, and I’m Franco-American and lived in San Francisco. Each one of us has experienced various environments and health and security systems, which differ from one country to another. 
Mathilde: We also pooled our collective knowledge and our personalities. Joseph has a great memory and thinks very quickly. Tommy is very creative. And Nolwenn and I like to meet people, and so weren’t afraid of the many necessary interactions with the French administration! Actually, all four of us have a tendency to focus very intensely on anything that we undertake. That level of involvement needs to be equal across a team.

How are you working today?

All of us are in our place of isolation, but we work together every day over the phone or via video-conference. Just because we’re not together doesn’t mean we can’t take action!

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