Emmaus International

Thursday’s discussion about the renewal of leadership within Emmaus International focused on wisdom.   Participants fostered a space for exchange and reflection as they tried to understand what it means to be a leader today and, most importantly, how to become one.

It’s about being responsible, above all” suggested Simon Grainge, 1st Vice President of the Emmaus International Executive Committee, reminding us that leaders are everywhere (and often go unnoticed) but that what sets a true leader apart is his or her ability to take on responsibility, even in seemingly unimportant everyday situations. During the session, three different presenters shared their experience of becoming leaders in their communities.
Josephine Martine, of the Village Community Development Society (VCDS), in India, insists that becoming a leader was a natural process; her community chose her. She emphasized that one must not “walk alone;” and stated “new leaders need to learn about responsibility.” She used a well known fable to illustrate her point: “the story of the tortoise and the hare teaches us that one must have vitality, and run like the hare; but also develop the wisdom of the tortoise.” She affirmed, over and over again, “There’s a leader in all of us…but we must know how to find him or her!
Jean Berchmans Nsengiyumva, of the organization Emmaus A.L.D.H in Burundi, stressed that leaders must first teach themselves, and that this requires a large amount of willpower because being a leader (in his eyes) also “brings on a lot of problems.” He compared his leadership role with that of a duckling: “If he goes too quickly, he will run far ahead of everyone; too slow, he will be left behind; the same speed, he will be walked on.” Finally, Jorge Ambiado, of the community Grupo Aportes, from Uruguay, insisted on the importance of creating new generations of leaders, and recognizing when it is time to “make room.”
Participants wondered, “What means to be a leader at Emmaus, in the World?” and “how can we create new leaders?”  In regards to the former question, it was concluded that leaders must be capable of adapting the movements main concerns into local contexts, while maintaining a broader long-term vision.  In response to the second, participants supported the idea of implementing a leader-training plan, promoting education, and building awareness within communities with the goal of fostering new leaders.
Participants noted that the word “leader” seems inappropriate for a horizontal movement like Emmaus; they suggested that the terms “facilitator” or “animator,” are more in step with movement values.

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