How college students in Monaco are lending a helping hand to the elderly

Image of Sacha Vignet Rigoliet and Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia
Alizée Mosconi / Sacha Vignet Rigoliet and Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia

Changing a lightbulb, setting up a TV, walking dogs or even simply spending an evening playing boardgames. For four weeks now the organisation “Dites-nous” (“How can we help you?”) has rallied round to help elderly people living in Monaco with all of these activities. Launched by college students in March, the organisation now has six volunteers who are spreading kindness and goodwill throughout the Principality, whilst the elderly tell them tales of years gone by and how Monaco used to be.

During the first lockdown, enforced last year to cope with Covid-19, Sacha Vignet Rigoli, a young resident in Monaco, began to realise how isolated elderly people were becoming. Since then, he has desperately wanted to do something to help them. So in March 2021, along with his friend Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia, the organisation “Dites-nous” was born. Four weeks on, this duo has tripled in size with six volunteers all determined to do their bit to help the over 60s in Monaco, asking for nothing in return.

“We are hoping to be able to help younger people with disabilities too.” But, there is one condition, “We refuse to be payed, and if we were to receive any donations, we would give the money to other organisations that needed it,” explains Sacha Vignet Rigoli. Kindness and generosity really are at the heart of this project!

A chance to bring together young and old

“Most people who have contacted us for help wanted to know how to use different bits of new technology,” explains the final year college student, who has a real passion for maths. “From Zoom to Teams, and even the App Store, our elders want to learn how to use these platforms as many people who have not yet retired are now being required to use them at work.”

Our elders often feel forgotten about and like they aren’t useful. We are hoping to brighten up their day a little!

Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia, college student and volunteer with the Monégasque organisation “Dites-nous”

Hairdressers, pharmacies and reception desks in apartment blocks, the volunteers have distributed their flyers all over Monaco to help spread the word as quickly as possible. “From Instagram to Facebook, we’ve really increased the number of posts on social media so the younger generations will start talking about it with their grandparents,” says Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia.

This young student has become even more motivated after noticing young people’s disinterest in the older generation. “Our elders often feel forgotten about and like they aren’t useful. We are hoping to brighten up their day a little!”

A trip down memory lane in Monaco

One of the great things about doing favours for the elderly is the chance to go back in time and to hear stories about how Monaco used to be when they were younger. “In Monaco, everywhere you look there are always construction sites, the Principality’s landscape is constantly changing,” says Sacha Vignet Rigoli. “I’ve never seen Monaco without a crane!” laughs Laura Le Maux-Gramaglia, who has loved being able to hear tales from years gone by, painting a picture of the Monaco that her fellow students, born at the start of the 21st century, will only be able to get from books.

Nowadays, young people are always in such a rush and it’s interesting that they are in fact capable of giving up a bit of this precious commodity that is their time

Magali Rigoli, mother and co-founder of the organisation “Dites-nous”, run by student volunteers

This organisation hopes to do more than just lend a helping hand. Sacha Vignet Rigoli describes how one day the volunteers hope to use their experiences to write a real work of art, “the chronicles of our elders,” in order to “retrace a little bit of Monaco, to rediscover its history” and “ensure that the elderly people will never be forgotten.” Delighted by the students’ ambition and proof of their maturity into adulthood, Magali Rigolo, one of the volunteer’s mothers, tells how “nowadays, young people are always in such a rush and it’s interesting that they are in fact capable of giving up a bit of that precious commodity that is their time”

>> READ ALSO: Julia Simon Moraly, using Facebook to unite Monaco in the face of Covid-19