Marianne  Sébastien

Name: Marianne Sébastien

Project: Voix Libres: Boarding School Project
Position: Project Leader


Short summary of your background:
Professionally I was trained in social science, pedagogy and development, whereas I am also an active musician and singer.

Being the mother of a child with hearing difficulties, I started to combine pedagogy with visual and voice work. As a consequence, I founded several associations which still continue today: in 1980, 3 visual expression workshops for pre-school children (drawing and painting) in the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland; an association of parents of deaf children.

In 1981, I created the Swiss association "New methods for deaf children". Today 110 interpreters trained in L.P.C. (completed spoken language) work for the Swiss Accident Insurance organization and enable deaf children to speak well and join the normal school system. In 1982 I took part in the creation of the "Fourth World Families Association" in the west of Lausanne, with a journal entitled "And us?".

In 1987, I started with music therapy training sessions in Europe titled: "Free your sung" (in French Voix Libres).

In 1993 I founded the Voix Libres Association in Geneva, expanding into France and Belgium in 1996. In 1998 I created the Swiss Foundation "With the eyes of the Heart", in Geneva, which enables us to make 6 films illustrating Voix Libres’ activities.

I was nominated "Woman Entrepreneur 2007" by the CFE in Geneva.

Languages you can speak/write:
French, Spanish and some English

What inspired you to take this initiative?
On a consultancy mission in Bolivia in 1991, I met Padre Santiago who had devoted his life to the integral development of the Quechua communities, providing education for 40’000 children. Shortly before his death, 9 months later, he sent me the projects as a sort of testament. My answer to his call was to found Voix Libres...

Today Voix Libres is a model of a new society in which the most destitute and malnutritioned children and young people, gain self confidence, self esteem and receive education, to become the leaders of a close-knit economic system based on solidarity, with no intermediaries between the Bolivian producers and local and European consumers.

In the beginning, I met with thousands of rubbish sorters, living on and feeding themselves from the refuse dumps. I asked them what they needed. A week later they had dug out the foundations of a large house so that they could meet with dignity. Today they have developed enterprises manufacturing handicrafts and leatherwork for export.

One night I met a hundred street children, huddled up together in a tunnel. The same night we organized a shoeshine enterprise together. Later, we bought a house which became a reception centre. Today they manage a large restaurant on Lake Titicaca as well as ceramics and musical instrument exporting enterprises.

I saw a child die, crushed by rocks in the Cerro Rico mine. My life would never be the same again. Heartbroken, I returned to Potosi with about ten women to start up the first micro-credit operation.

What is your (future) dream regarding this project?
I dream of a land of cooperation, in which all the poor people and suffering children can stand up and become autonomous, proud of themselves…truly resilient, they will express themselves, listen to each other, spreading the fruits of solidarity and love.

As of today, we have reached already 500,000 direct beneficiaries... the next step would be a million!

What would you like to say to future participants in your project?
Join us in our mission!