Yasmina KASMI BAKKALI is French and works as an English teacher at a vocational high school and a European Parliament ambassador. She survived severe burns as a child and is now a volunteer at the Burns and Smiles Association in France. She is an avid language learner and communicator.

Yasmina loves sports: she ran a marathon race. She feels that a marathon teaches you a life lesson: patience, training, perseverance, endurance, adaptability and regularity. She also loves to sing and has the most dazzling smile that I know. She has been in a relationship with her lovely partner, Philippe, for 30 years. They are the proud parents of a son.

Recently, she ran a school project entitled: Representations of our own gaze, representations of other people’s gazes: how about changing other people’s gazes? It tackles the topics of segregation, handicap, police and citizens, professional skills and fake news. As an educator, she is the centre of attention in her classroom and knows how to handle the intense staring by her pupils.


What are the missions of Burns and Smiles?

The Burns and Smiles Association has got 4  missions:

  • To inform burn survivors and their family members
  • To help burn survivors who are cut off from society to socialize
  • To assist them in their job search
  • To make them feel better thanks to wellness treatments

What specific topics do you address personally?

 I focus on the topic of other people’s gazes. Indeed, people with severe burns are considered as different and experience a lot of staring that may make them feel very ill-at-ease. People usually watch us, scrutinise us, stare at our scars, or glance at them. We never leave people indifferent.

In my teaching I address gender equality between men and women, AI and inclusion. I will be taking my Ulis (Unités localisées pour l’inclusion scolaire) vocational school pupils on a school trip to Ireland, the very first time special needs pupils with dyslexia, disorthographia and other learning difficulties will experience this in my school academy..

I also am a fervent advocate about the importance of voting during European Elections.

What is your role in the organisation?

I am a moderator: I run a discussion group. I am responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the discussion, managing the group process and dynamics. I introduce relevant issues and ideas for response by the group. I ensure that the 3 missions of Burns and Smiles are being addressed in a satisfying way for our participants.

How did you get involved?

I met Laurent GAUDENS, the founder of the association. I took part in some of their events such as the Heroes’ Races and the Burns and Smiles apéritifs (social drinks).

Growing up did you have any role models yourself?

Yes, I did. I had 4 inspiring role models who had a major impact on my life.

My surgeon, Mr. Daniel ROUGE who, through his medical care and therapeutic words, saved my life.

Wilfrid ROTGE, a linguistics professor at La Sorbonne University, is a grammar expert. He makes me aware of the importance of all kinds of language to communicate. He paved the way for me to write as part of my work.

My twin sister who is a Spanish teacher, my confidante and “second brain”: Sophia KASMI BAKKALI whose wisdom, humility and intelligence are inspiring to me.

Mrs Sophie Massé GAUDENS and Laurent GAUDENS, who trusted me and believed in me. She offered me the opportunity to represent Dulcenae as a model. Dulcenae is the first inclusive Beauty parlour in France. I was honoured to shoot some videos to showcase the virtues of the Beauty parlour’s cosmetics which people with burns can safely use to feel pampered and glamourous. Caring and knowledgeable staff teach you how to apply them.

If you had to name 3 values which guide you as a person, which would they be?
These three values would be: honesty, resilience and enthusiasm.
How has this involvement impacted your life?

Volunteering has impacted my life in such a way that I consider that the more I give, the happier I feel. Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity.

When was the last time that you were touched by a participant’s reaction?

Everyday! People join the organisation to testify about their terrible accidents and everyday there is a newcomer who is panic-stricken. The latest participant said that she was delighted because she was no longer alone. I reassured her by telling her that Burns and Smiles is a large benevolent community of people who genuinely care and help. I let her know that they would listen to her and provide her social assistance.

Yasmina Kasmi Bakkali

Any exciting news about your new services, publication or (online) event?
I’ve just written a book in French entitled: ‘Sale peste!’ It mainly deals with other people’s gazes towards scars and how we can overcome our own inhibitions to face adversity. We have incredible inner strength to beat the odds and get over our self-doubt and complexes. I would like it to be translated into English and be published both in French and English.

There was going to be a very artistic photo exhibition about my own burn scars, my own gaze about my scars as well. It is postponed because of the lockdown. The photographer is Ombeline de France. I would like it to be displayed both in France and The United Kingdom.

How can people reach you?
This interview was conducted by Lucie Cunningham from Tell Them Well Communications in June 2020. Lucie is a freelance editor, copywriter and translator with many years of community project management. She has lived in France, England, The USA, the Netherlands and is currently based in Scotland.