For the Sunday Scribblings prompt "hero" I could write about many people, famous and not-so-famous. The common traits all these amazing men and women share is selflessness and compassion. In their desire to improve the lot of others, these heroes risk persecution, jail sentences and in some cases, even death.
Today I want to focus on a select group of heroes in France: teachers. Being a teacher in itself can be pretty heroic - witness this heart-tugging piece from Wendy at Quiet about a Lot of Things.
Some French teachers go above and beyond the call of duty: not only do they teach their usual classes and help expand children's minds to learning, they shelter immigrant children at their homes. They feed, clothe and provide shelter, medical care and education for these children forced by an unrealistic immigration policy to be separated from their parents.
In France, the law stipulates that immigrant children cannot be deported without their parents, while parents cannot be deported without their children. In an effort to halt families from being deported at the end of the school term- most of them to countries in Africa beset with war, drought and food shortages - some French teachers are caring for the immigrant children, hiding them at their homes or safe houses.
Of course the French have a history of sheltering children in times of war and difficult circumstance. Many of these immigrant children were born in France and have lived all their lives on French soil. To be forcibly uprooted to an unfamiliar environment, often with civil unrest, political instability and harsh living conditions is just wrong - no matter how you look at it.
For wrenching firsthand accounts of the daily struggles involved for an illegal immigrant in Paris, read Le Clandestine a Paris:
"...But I tell myself that for goodness' sake, I have been through worse. I survived a genocide, witnessed my entire family hacked to death with machettes, but have managed to live with the incommensurable grief."
Currently an estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants reside in France, of whom 50,000 are thought to be children currently attending school. Many parents have requested political asylum, but their pleas have been rejected. Meanwhile, the children suffer - separated from their families, in a desperate bid for safe havens. And the teachers - following their conscience, rather than the law - risk their jobs and jail to help these children.
And the government? Still debating the problems associated with immigration, illegal or otherwise. It is hoped elections next spring will result in a government up to the challenge.