Created in 1963 in France, the Office chrétien des personnes handicapées (Christian Office for Disabled Persons) is a foundation intended to allow families affected by disability not to remain isolated and to meet periodically, in common hope, to exchange ideas on the specific issues that concern them. With this aim, in 2005, the association began sponsoring days and weekends to help families of handicapped persons to renew themselves in the spirit.
One of these days: the "Day of the brothers and sisters of sick or disabled persons," was celebrated in some French cities on May 21st. This event concluded a year-long cycle that included various initiatives in for parents and for children. The personal testimonies were one of the highlights of these days. In Paris, three groups were formed, one for each age group: children, young people between 17 and 35, and adults. Members of these groups had the opportunity to listen to testimonies of brothers and sisters of disabled persons; subsequently, they had time to exchange ideas. Of course, these days above all give them the chance to express themselves freely, without being judged or criticized. Moreover, these moments also represent a parenthesis and help people with the same problems to meet. During the day, the participants were also able to benefit from workshops on legal issues as well as on the emotional relationships or mental illness. This is the current trend, according to OCH, because of the increase in mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or manic depression, with frailties that are not always visible, while people with a motor disability seem to overcome obstacles more easily.
The Day of May 21st ended, as always, with a Eucharistic celebration. However, the association remained mobilized during the hours and days that followed, because emotional stress can manifest itself after a sharing session—an effect also called "opening internal doors," which affects people who are less resistant. All the participants are encouraged to call the listening and counseling service after this kind of encounter.
In the future, OCH intends to extend this initiative to other cities in France. To meet this challenge, the association will make use, among other things, of wider communication through social networks, parishes and schools. Finally, the participants themselves at times promote new initiatives. For example, some mothers of disabled persons have created the "Days of Mom's Heart," while young professionals gather to meet each other several times a year. Two years ago, a tour of France was also organized. As shown, the association has managed to create a dynamic spirit and mutual support among members of families with handicapped persons.