Association Vivre en Famille

2014 Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity among Peoples

Founded in 1993, in France, in order to provide foster families for children with mental health issues, the association later extended its field of activity to Africa. Today, it focuses its attention on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but still maintains its original vocation of supporting international adoption and, furthermore, works to guarantee for disadvantaged infants hospital treatment, schooling, and clinics, together with medical assistance for mothers. The Balzan Prize funding is destined in particular to the creation of a maternity unit and the revitalisation of a school at Ibambi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Vivre en Famille is a French association created twenty-one years ago by an extraordinary couple, Maurice and Edith Labaisse. After having raised their six children, they became aware of the problems of mentally challenged children whose parents were unable to provide for their material and moral support. Thus, Maurice and Edith Labaisse themselves adopted twelve children. As an extension of their approach and continuing with such action, they created an association in 1993, when they set up an assisted living centre (foyer de vie) at Varenne (Orne, lower Normandy), with twenty-one residents with mental disabilities – undoubtedly different individuals, but needing, like all of us, to be loved and to give love and affection to others. They are thus at the origin of approximately 200 adoptions of handicapped children in France.

The dramatic episode of a small young handicapped girl who was forcibly repatriated to Djibouti moved Maurice and Edith to found, in 1997, an adoption agency for Ethiopian children abandoned in an orphanage established in the 1930s. Today, thanks to their untiring efforts in a campaign together with political authorities, more than 1000 of these abandoned children have found a family and home.

With the support of their team, Maurice and Edith Labaisse have founded the largest association for international adoption in France, which has been recognized by local and French authorities as an NGO function in Kinshasa, Cotonou and Bangui. This association is supported by a network of generous and grateful families.

Since political conditions have changed, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Benin are now their principal field of activity, with the complete collaboration of the local governments. Abandoned children are helped and provided for in orphanages where, because of the scarcity of necessary resources, they would risk dying without the aid given by the organization. Several surgeons on the Vivre en Famille team go regularly to Benin, where they have carried out around one hundred operations and trained local hospital staff. Projects are underway to extend their field of action to other countries in Africa.

The Balzan Foundation Prize will make it possible, in the immediate future, to construct a maternity unit in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to remodel a school, to send medical materials and school supplies, to take charge of women who have been victims of sexual violence and to assist in the education of 500 pygmy children on the edge of the equatorial forest. We are pleased to think that the maternity unit and the children’s school in Ibambi (DRC) will be named after the Balzan Foundation, thus giving it a presence in the heart of Africa.

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Fondazione Internazionale Premio Balzan