Frankreich: Cristina Tézenas du Montcel

When you are confronted with true suffering, you have the opportunity to share the best of everyone.

— Cristina Tézenas du Montcel

Born in 1943, Cristina Tézenas du Montcel studied Russian at the Ecole des Langues Orientales in Paris and comparative European law in Brussels. Since 1968, she pursued a career in politics in the Cultural Department of the French Foreign Ministry. From 1987 to 1990, she was director of external communication for Radio France Internationale. She is president of Envol, a medical recreational facility which organizes vacations for seriously ill children. Since 1997, this center, unique in Europe, has hosted almost 4000 children suffering from cancer, leukemia, and other critical conditions.

Envol was created in September 1994 at the initiative of Cristina’s late husband. The medical facility has hosted more than 4000 children since its inauguration in 1997. These children, aged seven to 17, come from approximately 100 hospitals in France and Europe for a short stay, usually 12 days. They suffer from over 130 diseases such as cancer, leukemia, blood diseases and rare or “orphan” illnesses. The goal of Envol is to offer the children some joy of living and give them the strength they need to cope with their condition when they go back home or to the hospital. Serious illness in a child is like a war – it may last over several battles, all of which have to be won. The children themselves are like little warriors; they refuse to succumb to their negative emotions, try not to hurt people’s feelings, and smile. They say: "At Envol, I become a child again, whereas in the hospital I am a patient.” "Obviously, in such a situation, feelings and heartfelt reactions are more important than intellectual capacities; they light our path. The world must not abandon its sick children,” Cristina says. Envol gives every child the opportunity to recover vital energy by practicing sports or other activities it was barred from for medical reasons, and rediscover the simple pleasure of being like other children – gardener or fisherman, rider or actor, poet or photographer, swimmer or singer, clown or musician, a farmer at the mini-farm, or a hiker through the forest and by the lake, and regain confidence and a measure of happiness. Envol is a response to children’s critical illnesses, an attempt to give them hope and some peace.

L' Envol pour les enfants européens