Emmaus International

The Covid-19 pandemic will have a long-term impact on our movement and the world in general. During this crisis period, Emmaus International wants to help you understand what life is like for groups right now, the difficulties they face and community life which, despite all odds, is continuing. This includes initiatives to support the most excluded which are maintained, or put in place, to not lose sight of why we exist: to serve first those who suffer most.

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Reports from the field!

Although work is grinding to a halt in many countries, the Emmaus groups are mobilised and life goes on in the communities. They continue to be outward looking and have not forgotten those who suffer most. Initiatives are being set up or maintained around the world to guarantee the solidarity of the Emmaus movement. Here are some examples of what is happening in the four corners of the world:


Emmaus North East  (England) 

One of 29 communities across the UK, Emmaus North East is a charity that provides a home and meaningful work to up to 15 formerly homeless people who work alongside local volunteers at the Emmaus charity shops in Hebburn and Low Fell, in the North East of England. 

Despite closing its shops, Emmaus North East is continuing to run its social supermarket, named Lucie’s Pantry after Lucie Coutaz. Opened in October 2019, Lucie’s Pantry provides food and household items to local families with financial struggles due to debt, illness or low income. Thanks to generous donations from local people and organizations, Emmaus North East can continue to run the service and provide vital items to those who need their help most during the current crisis.


V.C.D.S.  (India) 

The Emmaus group Village Community Development Society (V.C.D.S.), located in south-east India, works in the field of education, skill development, agriculture, training and sensitising people on women & child protection. It has 18 evening schools in which around 900 children study and works in 30 villages in women and child protection, agriculture and etc.  

"Right now after this pandemic lockdown, we are working along with the local administration in giving awareness on self hygiene and social distancing and isolation. We have also offered our building to make shift hospital and quarantine centres. We also offered our premises for community kitchen. We have distributed food packages to 75 gypsy families and street dwellers. We also distributed face mask to the labourers of government food grain storage units" declare Josephine Pavithra, program manager of V.C.D.S.

Emmaus Lunda  (Angola

Emmaus Lunda, based in Angola, in south-west Africa, has been a member of Emmaus International for 5 years. The association is active in the fight against AIDS and calls on the Angolan government to provide free antiretroviral treatment for people living with the virus. It also offers training in dressmaking to 40 women, and is setting up a school to give the poor access to education.

So far Angola has been largely spared by the Covid-19 pandemic with only 19 confirmed cases and 2 deaths. These very low figures, compared to other African countries, have not prevented the government authorities from taking restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus inside its borders: a state of emergency was decreed and an obligatory lockdown period has been extended until 25 April. Although no positive cases have been registered in Saurimo, where Emmaus Lunda is located, all the group’s activities have been suspended. Faced with this situation and despite the lockdown, Emmaus members are showing their solidarity, like the manager of the dressmaking training centre who is making cloth masks from her home for people who cannot afford to buy them. 

Cuna Nazareth Foundation  (Peru) 

Education is the main activity at the Cuna Nazareth Foundation based in Lima, the capital of Peru. Since its creation, over 50 years ago, the Foundation’s nursery school has taught 130 children, aged 1-5, from single-parent or underprivileged families. In addition to traditional lessons and extracurricular activities, the children receive three meals a day. To make it easier for the children to learn, a counselling service has been set up, as well as social services to support the parents, who are very much involved in school life. As for other areas of activity, in 2007, the group started to sell second-hand goods, collecting unwanted goods from the streets of Lima.

Following the state of emergency and curfew imposed during this health crisis, the Cuna Nazareth Foundation was forced to close the school and its shops. Since then, its main task has been ensuring that solidarity continues by providing the families it supports with food items which were originally intended for the children’s school meals. The Cuna Nazareth Foundation has also assessed the living conditions of some of the families and the companions who are not receiving any wages right now. As a result, the Foundation decided to help them by giving them rice, sugar and flour, which are the only remaining food items in their storeroom.

Emmaus Prato Bookshop  (Italy) 

In Italy, the lockdown measures have been extended until the start of May. However, the government has eased some restrictions, and last week it announced that bookshops were allowed to reopen their doors. In the historic centre of the city of Prato, located near Florence, Marie Balseca, the manager of the Emmaus Prato bookshop is back at work. The manager and around ten volunteers work together at this cultural meeting place, which has been open since 2012. ”The idea behind the project was to showcase, at the heart of the city centre, the literary treasures found in the Emmaus Prato communities, such as rare and precious books and collectors' items,” explains Marie Balseca. “Over the years, the project has developed and now we sell all types of books. Our customers are also very diverse: elderly people come in to chat and are in daily contact with young students from the literary high school in Prato. This bookshop is also a place for cultural and political awareness-raising: we organise presentations by authors, themed evenings, but also series of lectures on discrimination, such as religious discrimination, in partnership with the City Council and the municipal library”, the bookshop’s manager adds. “Thanks to book sales, the bookshop is now self-sufficient, but it also carries out local solidarity work by financially supporting families facing educational hardships, who cannot afford to buy their children's school books or pay for their children to go on school or cultural outings. An emergency fund is also topped up each year, which has allowed the bookstore to avoid the economic consequences of lockdown and closure," she adds.

During the closure, the Emmaus Prato bookshop has redoubled its efforts to bring culture to the doorsteps of inhabitants in lockdown. “As the bookshop is on a street in the city centre, next to a fishmonger’s, a butcher’s and a fruit and vegetable greengrocer’s, we placed baskets filled with books next to these shops, for people who came to do their shopping.  At the start of April, we also started to make book deliveries to homes” explains Marie Balseca. The reopening of bookshops is a good sign, she feels, as up to that point only pharmacies and food shops were open. “This could mean that to some extent books are also food for the soul and a type of medicine. This opens up the range of activities accessible during lockdown, and makes it possible to think about something other than Covid-19," she confirms. Italians are taking their first steps out of lockdown!