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 Saint-Brieuc  (France) 

In Saint-Brieuc, the hospital centre made an appeal in mid-March for people to make cloth masks for non-healthcare workers. At the start of April, another hospital appealed for people to make scrubs. Emmaus Saint-Brieuc was able to respond to both appeals: Yvette, a companion, started to make around sixty cotton masks. “We are aiming to make 250 masks, the goal set by the workshop manager”. Nine scrubs are also being made, with a second batch on the way. In light of this request, Yvette has been joined by other companions. There’s strength in numbers!


Thanapara Swallows Development Society  (Bangladesh) 

Thanapara Swallows Development Society, based in Rajshahi, on the banks of the river Padma, has been seeking to create a democratic society, by developing the socio-economic conditions of the most disadvantaged, since it was founded over 40 years ago. Today it manages over 10 different programmes, from fair trade (covers, bags, clothing, etc.) to a micro-credit programme,  actions to gain access to health (mutual health fund) and awareness raising. During this health crisis, the Thanapara group is focussing its efforts on making and distributing masks to its craft workers and to members of the community.

ALDP  (Burundi

Located in Bujumbura, the financial capital of the country, the Association de Lutte contre la Délinquance et la Pauvreté (ALDP), which works to combat delinquency and poverty, has set up two awareness-raising sessions on Covid-19 on a weekly basis, for the youngsters at the association and the local population. Working with its French partner “A Portée de Mains”, ALDP “started making around fifty protective masks in its sewing workshop this week”, explains Anaclet Katumbulu Kitungano, president of the association. “Once we have more resources, we will be able to produce more so we can all wear them”, he adds.

Aportes  (Uruguay) 

Created over 30 years ago, the Grupo Aportes community is based in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. It has a shop and the revenue from its sales allow it to respond to emergency requests from local institutions or families who are living in extreme poverty. Today, despite its doors being closed, the group continues to respond to requests for assistance. “We have donated metal beds to a hospital to support their increasing need at this time”, explains Rogelio Coitiño, a coordinator at the group.  “An allied organisation “Idas y Vueltas”, who participated in Emmaus International’s World Forum of Alternatives as an actor in the struggle for universal citizenship, also sent us a list of migrants who needed clothing. In addition, we collaborated with a local company by providing blankets and warm clothing to cope with the cold weather that is coming. During these uncertain times, it’s difficult to know what the right course of action is, but we can be sure that we’ll find the right path together”, he adds.

Emmaus Switzerland Federation  (Switzerland) 

As with most of the communities in Europe, the Swiss groups have closed their shops and are in lockdown to protect companions, volunteers, staff members and customers. “We are all moving in slow motion, while still supporting the companions from the different communities who have seen their working hours reduced", explains Jérémie Urdy, the Swiss National Delegate. During this unusual time, many communities are making the most of their available time to undertake maintenance work in the residential areas and their shops. “Others have developed online sales through different existing platforms, with quite interesting results. These will remain in place when the shops reopen”, he adds. “Voluntary and civic solidarity has been established in various towns and cities in Switzerland for vulnerable people. Emmaus Jura and the Emmaus Valais community have offered their services in their respective areas and deliver food and medicine to people's homes, in partnership with the municipalities and social services in their canton. Emmaus Bern has quickly taken the bull by the horns, preparing and distributing food, clothing and sleeping bags to the homeless in the city, as the existing organisations, overwhelmed by the presence of Covid-19, ceased their activities overnight. The situation is becoming more stable, a partnership was set up recently between Emmaus Bern and “Le Pinto” association. Emmaus Geneva is the only community which is continuing with their daily collection work because they are in charge of the canton's clothing containers," he adds.

This health and economic crisis should enable the Emmaus movement to reinvent itself. “Many projects are being studied, as we see the need to diversify and perhaps to offer something different in the future, not to stick with what we know. Agriculture, furniture customisation and creation, bakeries, repair work for individual customers, meeting place coffee shops, etc. We’re certainly not lacking ideas!” emphasises Jérémie.