An unforgettable experience for the kids that summer forgot

Thanks to Disney VoluntEARS and Secours Populaire Français, 5,500 children just spent an August to remember. The “Oubliés des vacances” program for kids who won’t have a summer vacation gave thousands of French and foreign children the chance to play the day away at Disneyland Paris this August. Kicking off the initiative on August 12, the first 450 escaped their everyday by shrinking to the size of a rat in Ratatouille: the Adventure, stopping for a photo op with Mickey and Minnie, flying head over heels on Space Mountain: Mission 2 and singing along with “it’s a small world.”

They were the first of 5,500 children from the non-profit Secours Populaire Français to be invited to Disneyland Paris this August by the Corporate Citizenship department, as part of the “Oubliés des vacances” program. “One in three children does not go on vacation, yet everyone has a right to leisure time—it is essential for children to thrive,” explained association president Julien Lauprêtre.

Hosting children who can’t afford to go away on vacation is nothing new to Disneyland Paris, but the August 12 group was special: more than half of the children present that day were “Copain du Monde” kids—“Friends of the World”—from developing countries and other areas where Secours Populaire works to help refugees and the victims of war and natural disaster. Twenty-seven different countries were represented. The high point of this festive gathering was the opening of Disney Magic on Parade! Dressed in their traditional costumes, the children proudly carried their countries’ flags in the parade. It was a moving and symbolic moment, as different cultures, so often in conflict in the adult world, came together at Disneyland Paris.

Disney VoluntEARS: an example of diversity

This was also a great opportunity for cultural exchange with Disney VoluntEARS. With some 100 nationalities of Cast Members at Disneyland Paris, there was someone to speak every child’s language. Binta, a Disney VoluntEAR since 2010, speaks Hassaniya Arabic, so she led a group from Western Sahara. The guides enjoyed the warmth and fun shared with the kids too!

A total of over 300 volunteers were mobilized this August to welcome thousands of children, a turnout that hasn’t been seen at Disneyland Paris since 1993! The result? Magical moments that will be remembered forever. And the children are not the only ones to walk away with precious memories: “To see them happy when the rest of their life is not all peachy means a lot,” says Alexandre, a Disney VoluntEAR since 2013.