When 17-year-old Céline Mebodo walks down the streets of her neighborhood, children rush outside, eager to see her. It’s not quite like the Pied Piper has come to call, but it’s something close to that.
The young ones tug at her trousers and smother her with hugs. The older boys, the ones starting to think they’re “street wise,” speak to her politely. Teenage girls smile, nod, or wave. They ask her how she’s doing.
Céline has become quite well known in her little town of Gonesse, France. But it isn’t because of some newsworthy thing she’s done. It’s because she loves children.
And there’s another thing Céline loves. It’s first aid, the art of giving immediate attention to those who are hurting. Sometimes it means preparing them to receive greater help at a hospital or other care center, but most of the time it’s less than that—bandaging a wound or cleaning a skinned knee.
Since Céline loves children and loves first aid, too, it seems only reasonable that she’s found a way to put her two loves together.
“I come from a big family,” Céline, a Laurel in the Sarcelles Branch, Paris France East Stake, explains. “Maybe that’s why I care so much. And I come from a little neighborhood where everybody knows everybody, so we’re always trying to help each other.”
When she was younger, Céline would go to summer camp, as most French children do. “They would offer a week of training in first aid, and I would always sign up.” The classes were usually held at the local Red Cross. “At the end of the course, the monitors would always ask if anyone would like to attend some Red Cross meetings and see a little bit how it works,” Céline continues. “So I went for about two months, to see what it was like, and I joined. I started getting more and more training and passing more and more tests.”
Now she’s as qualified in first aid as the sapeurs-pompiers, the firemen French people generally call when there’s an emergency.
“My desire from the first was to be able to help other people, to bless Heavenly Father’s children, to be prepared in case of an accident,” Céline says. Her Personal Progress program helped her refine that desire. “I set the goal to learn first aid before I turned 19,” she says.
She met her goal but found she wanted to share what she was learning.
“I didn’t think of it as a talent until I got into it and saw that it comes quite naturally to me,” she continues. “Before, I had asked myself, What can I do to help others? For me, first aid is a way of doing that.”
Not only does she help by being trained herself; she is also training others. She has taught first aid at Mutual activities, Super Saturdays, youth conferences, and girls’ camps. She also mans a small Red Cross center in the basement of a local housing complex. There she teaches CPR, answers the phone, and attends to cuts and bruises of neighborhood children. They come to her as much for a hug as for a bandage.
“I’m in my final year of high school,” Céline says. “And first aid is helpful there, too. Even in school, people fall down, break a bone, or have some kind of sickness. Someone might even have epilepsy and go into a seizure. All around me are a lot of people who don’t know how to react. But me, I know what to do. I’ve developed my skills for exactly that reason.”
Through the Red Cross, Céline is also deeply involved in feeding and caring for the homeless. “Government agencies, shelters, churches, and charities often refer people to the Red Cross,” Céline explains, “people who drink too much or have other problems. They don’t nourish themselves well, and so they often become feeble, especially during cold weather. We dress them, nurse them, try to give them another chance.”
That may sound ambitious, but for Céline it’s more than just wishful thinking. “They are Heavenly Father’s children, too,” she says. “That means they’re our brothers and sisters. If we can make an effort to get them back on their feet, we ought to.”
Of course, if there were a major natural disaster, a flood or an earthquake for example, the Red Cross would be there, too. “Not long ago in Paris, terrorist bombs were exploding,” Céline remembers. “The Red Cross was there, helping take care of those with minor injuries and to get others ready to go to the hospital.”
Doesn’t all that volunteering take a lot of time?
“I suppose it does,” Céline says matter-of-factly. She’s as busy as anyone with church activities, school assignments, quizzes, finding time for friends—the usual stuff.
“But I would prefer to give up a little of my own time rather than to see someone else suffer,” she says. “Besides, it helps me feel useful. I know I’m good for something, that I serve a purpose.”
That’s the real reason why nearly everyone says bonjour when Céline walks down the street. She isn’t a Pied Piper; she’s a people person. She helps children of all ages overcome the skinned knees of life. She’s popular because she cares, because people know of her good works, and because, since we are all children of God, she loves everyone. That love, quite clearly, flows back to her.