PARIS (AP) — Paris takes in billions of euros each year from tourists, but the international vacation destination welcomed thousands of special visitors Wednesday with a spirit of giving.
The French charity Secours Populaire brought children from dozens of different countries — including those living through war, poverty or natural disasters — to join kids from France for a day of summer fun, allowing even those with limited means to take a vacation at the height of the French holiday season.
Thousands of children fanned out around Paris for a treasure hunt, while others played in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower or took boat tours on the Seine. They arrived in Paris on Wednesday after spending several weeks at summer camps scattered throughout France. Both the Paris event and the camps were paid for by the charity.
The association's head of international cooperation Corinne Makowski said the event aims to help some temporarily escape injustices and troubles that make taking holiday time off impossible.
Amrla Shoufi attended the event with a delegation from civil war-torn Syria, his last full day in France before he returns to his home city Sweida near the Jordanian border. The 17-year-old said the ten days of painting, climbing, swimming and sightseeing were a welcome relief from the dangers of his home country. "It's great to have a chance to get peace when you are at war," he said.
Approximately 10,000 French adult volunteers helped facilitate the event.
Next to a concert stage, 10-year-old Chris Delaroux from the eastern French city Metz painted a multicolor model of the Eiffel Tower, drawing inspiration as he sat in front of the iconic Paris monument. The event capped his two weeks at a camp where he said he played and created memories with children from all over the world, and learned to embrace similarities rather than focus on differences.
"We are all the same," he said.