France launched its COVID vaccine to a rocky start. Shortages and delivery issues, the suspension of AstraZeneca shots, and mandatory pre-vaccination consultations contributed to a slow, frustrating rollout. Seniors wanting to be vaccinated must book an appointment on an online portal, where the limited number of slots are taken the minute they become available. The complex process leaves many people struggling to find and secure appointments.
Since the hotline opened a little over a month ago, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Mottal says they’ve helped over 700 people book appointments all over the country. “Even doctors are sending their patients to us so we can help them reserve a slot.”
Orelle Azoulay, a high school senior in Paris, directs the volunteer Whatsapp group. “When someone leaves a message on our hotline with their information, it’s posted on the group and then one of us volunteers will be assigned to book that appointment.”
The feedback is consistently positive. “The people we help are so thankful, it’s heartwarming to hear. It makes you feel good,” says Orelle. The initiative has been widely reported by Jewish news outlets around the country and the group even received recognition from the national Ministry of Youth. “We are delighted that your initiatives continue to advance, with the energy of all the young people in your movement,” wrote Benoît Coquille, the ministry’s policy advisor.
Like the vaccine effort, most of the initiatives and programs offered by France’s CTeen network are run by the teens themselves. Orelle manages the organization’s Instagram account. Lucie Goldberg, 15, another vaccine volunteer from Gif-sur-Yvette, writes and collects content for their blog and magazine. She joined CTeen a year ago and is now one of the driving forces behind their programming. “CTeen was an eye-opener for me,” she says. “This group allows me to take more interest in Judaism, to give to others, and gives me so much positive energy.”
Orelle says she’s honored to have a part in enabling families to reunite with their parents and grandparents after distancing so long. “Protecting our elders is a great mitzvah and I believe it is important for young people to be involved in our community—especially now, when people feel so isolated.”