“Hey, this is your project!” “Sounds like us!” “That’s what we experienced!” »

When they saw the trailer for Louise Archambault’s latest film, Le temps d’unété, a handful of marginalized people were particularly affected. For good reason: they too, 10 years ago, had the chance to spend a memorable and unusual vacation.

Le temps d’unété, in theaters since Friday, tells the apparently eccentric story of an indebted priest, who decides to take a group of homeless people to spend the summer holidays on the edge of the river, in an estate he has just inherited.

The story seems far-fetched, and yet it is with the same desire to “offer dreams” that Nancie Martineau, community organizer, took along, like Patrice Robitaille in the film, a dozen homeless people for a few days in Cuba. Deeply convinced that travel changes lives, she did it again the following year in Morocco, then in Ecuador, and finally in Costa Rica.

“We evolve according to our environment, explains the adventurer, in an interview from Gatineau. Taking these people out of their daily lives, sending them elsewhere, allows them to ask themselves: where am I going? Far from their bearings, they can “compare misery”, as she puts it. And it creates “clicks”, she is convinced.

To carry out her project, Nancie Martineau worked tirelessly with her group of volunteers as colorful as they were skinned. For months, they organized fundraisers, sold hot dogs, and above all set aside a portion of their social assistance benefits, to achieve this unexpected dream.

And then ? “It gave me back my taste for life”, confirms Suzanne Villeneuve, who went through prostitution, drug addiction, even prison, before flying to Cuba in 2012 (her first trip of a series of three). . “Phew, I’ve come a long way since! […] The journey, my God! It showed me so much how to appreciate what you have! […] It opened my eyes! […] I have seen people happy with nothing! […] I realized that there was something else in life, that I was worthwhile and that I too can dream. For that, you have to make choices: change your lifestyle and put your priorities in the right place! She knows something about it, having had to quit smoking to save money. “And I haven’t smoked since!” »

That’s not all: the ex-prostitute no longer lives on social assistance, works part-time in home care and has forged strong ties with several new travelers met during these overseas journeys. Next week, they even plan to go see Louise Archambault’s film “en gang”.

Too good to be true ? “You have to experience it to believe it,” replies Nancie Martineau, who has seen “incredible behavioral changes” while traveling. “People were thriving. I was dealing with other people! “Of course, some have unfortunately disappeared since, but others, including Suzanne Villeneuve, have taken charge of themselves.

Nevertheless, at the time, recalls Nancie Martineau, the affair raised many waves, several commentators having seen with a dim view these social assistance recipients going on a trip to the South. Nancie Martineau has a slightly bitter memory. “There, it’s cute all of a sudden because it’s in the cinema. It is fiction. But when we do it in real life, slips the big-hearted volunteer, we see a lot of the “not in my backyard” phenomenon… ”

Note that a powerful documentary retracing the experience (and the words of its detractors), signed Alexandre Desjardins, was produced at the time.

The organization PAS de la rue, which helps people aged 55 and over who are homeless or in a precarious situation, has also been organizing two weeks of “respite” per year for the past 10 years at Domaine Juliette-Huot in Oka. , owned by the Little Brothers. After a three-year hiatus, a dozen participants are to stay there again this fall. “It’s a fantastic place, welcomes Bernard Bazouamon, administrator of the C.A. of PAS de la rue. And it allows participants to change their minds and build relationships. The idea of ​​the stay was born following a one-day activity. “We started off with a one-day picnic and we saw the bonds forming,” he recalls. We could see the tension dropping and we started to think: what if we isolated these people from the aggressiveness of the city, maybe it would be beneficial on a mental level? Since then, he has seen nothing but good in the initiative. While there are occasional disciplinary issues, he concedes, “the payoffs are huge. […] I have noticed friendships that have been created over time. Even the attitude of people has changed: when they return, they are fresher and more open towards the speakers. The attitude changes drastically.”