AFRoS general director Maylis Destremau and president Stephanie Lemieux at the AFRoS office. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

AFRoS general director Maylis Destremau and president Stephanie Lemieux at the AFRoS office. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

New general director for francophone association

Exciting things are on the horizon for the Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS), or the Francophone Association of the Southern Rockies.

The association was formed in 2012 as a way to campaign for a francophone school in Fernie and for years was run entirely by volunteers.

“It started with just parents, volunteers,” explained AFRoS president Stephanie Lemieux. “There was a couple waves of volunteers running AFRoS. The first wave was the parents who wanted the school created and that was a lot of energy and I think it kind of drained them out a little bit so then there was a new wave of volunteers that I came about with. Kind of like a second wave that took it over because as volunteers sometimes you can get burnt out.”

Lemieux said that one of her goals since becoming president of the association was to find funding, allowing the association to create a paid position and to secure office space for their programs.

“I really focused on doing grant applications, trying to find money because I could see that our volunteers were getting burnt out and I felt that it was good that we have something going but your potential to run an association like this with just volunteers is quite small.”

Thanks to a grant from Heritage Canada, on Nov. 15, Lemieux’s goal was realized and Maylis Destremau started work as AFRoS first ever general director, a paid position.

Destremau came to Fernie in September 2017, after living with her family in Chile for 20 years.

“We decided that we wanted a different education for the kids, especially for them to learn English so we did a road trip in 2017 along the Powder Highway,” Destremau recounted how she and her family ended up in Fernie. “So we came here and we really liked it and we were like wow, let’s try to come.”

According to Destremau, once she had arrived and settled in Fernie, she reached out to Lemieux, who used to bring clients to Destremau’s ski lodge in Chile.

Lemieux told her friend about the association and Destremau began volunteering wherever she could.

“I was always willing to be more a part of the community and doing things in Fernie and giving some time helping the association,” she said. “And then, I saw this opportunity for a job, presented my resume, did the interview and then got selected.”

The association, which began as “French story time in somebody’s basement,” according to Lemieux, has come a long way since their inception.

Now, with a paid position and new office space as of Oct. 1, AFRoS is better able to serve the French community in not only Fernie, but the rest of the Southern Rockies as well. Although their focus is mainly in Fernie for now, they actually cover Elkford, Sparwood, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere and Golden as well.

“Here in B.C. it’s more an anglophone region but we are part of Canada and Canada is bilingual,” said Destremau.

She also noted that the association tries to include everyone, not just francophones. “For us it’s really important… it’s not just for francophones or people from Quebec or from other French speaking countries. We are really willing to welcome everybody.”

Every Monday, AFRoS runs three different programs from their office. One program is geared towards young children, aged zero to four while the others are targeted towards teens and adults.

“We want to offer programs that are free or very cheap so that people can come, and not only people with lots of money,” Lemieux added.

On top of running weekly programs, all in French, of course, the association also hosts monthly cultural events.

“We call them the AFRoS events and it’s always around food or cultural things, just to remind people of their culture and where they come from,” said Lemieux.

Their last event was a games night at Infinitea and on Dec. 5, they’ll be hosting a tourtiere dinner, also at Infinitea.

The association also puts on Franco-fest, a french language festival in the springtime in Fernie.

“Every year we have been creating new things,” said Destremau. This year, AFRoS is looking to find more grants to expand their actions in the rest of their territory. They also have big dreams of things to come for the French community in the Elk Valley.

For now, they are working on building a website to increase their visibility and are actively looking for new and exciting ways to share the French language. If you’re interested to learn more, you can find them on Facebook by searching AFRoS Fernie or reach out via email at francofernie@gmail.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
Sparwood backs calls to declare Canadian overdose crisis a national public health emergency

Paramedics across B.C. responded to more overdose calls in 2020 than ever before

The district of Sparwood is seeking feedback on its Recreation Master Plan. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Non-medical cannabis store proposed for Sparwood

If approved, Elk Valley Cannabis would be the first cannabis business in the district

Natalie Joynes, Theo Hepher, Kai Dedey, and Sophia Becker sit on a blanket enjoying FYAN’s summer youth programming. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
Job Readiness Workshops available for local youth

Registration is now open for the series of free virtual workshops

A number of Elkford’s youth enjoy the SYS.tem Space. (Photo contributed)
SYS.tem Elkford opens up new youth hang out spot

The SYS.tem Space offers youth access to a wide selection of free indoor and outdoor activities

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read