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 San Sebastian  (Spain

Concerned by the environment and solidarity employment, Emmaus San Sebastian, located in the Basque Country in Spain, has been using its social and solidarity fashion label #sindesperdicio since the start of the lockdown to make reusable, circular masks. During April, Emmaus San Sebastian explained the unique story behind its masks via the group’s Facebook page: “Because whenever we can we try to avoid plastic, what you see here is made using fabric scraps from a campaign: “from the sea to the table”. But specifically, they are made using thread taken from PET bottles (these three letters stand for polyethylene terephthalate, the material which makes up plastic water bottles). When it is spun, this fabric is very soft to the touch and at the same time it is fairly waterproof so this is useful for us. Our masks have two layers and an opening to insert a cloth filter without any sewing required. This avoids generating as much plastic as those which can only be used for a few hours.” Aware of their duty to raise awareness among the local population, Emmaus San Sebastian adds “Masks are only an extra. The important thing is to continue social distancing, washing hands and other hygiene measures.”


CORDIS  (South Africa

In South America, the government began to ease the lockdown in early May. One and a half million people were authorised to return to work, respecting strict health protection measures. “A programme was also announced which will contribute to relaunching the economy and helping the industries affected”, explains Beron Molantoa, director of the Emmaus Cordis group. “Around 26 billion dollars have been put aside to help the economy, health workers, companies and vulnerable people. It’s important to highlight that foreigners will not be assisted. The majority of them, like the rest of ordinary South Africans, do odd jobs to survive on a daily basis”, he points out. “In most places that I’ve visited since the start of the crisis, people are starving”, warns Beron. “For this reason, Cordis, in partnership with the association St Vincent de Paul in Johannesburg, is in the process of compiling a list of those affected. Today we’re in a position to provide food parcels to 32 households”, he adds. “We intend to continue mobilising all stakeholders to help those most in need.  We still have a lot of people who need this help”, he concludes.

Kudumbam  (India

“During a disaster like Covid, the poorest of the poor are the most affected, and the elderly are abandoned and left to die”, reports Poppy John Xavier, the team coordinator at Kudumban. In her group, located in the south of India, solidarity is still in full swing! Thanks to the generosity of [microcredit scheme] agricultural borrowers - those with small shops and vegetable farms - along with several donors, the teams continue to provide support to vulnerable people. Distribution of relief kits, including food items and vegetables, are organised on a weekly basis for widows, the elderly, people with disabilities and vulnerable families.

Emmaus Oruro  (Bolivia) 

In mid-March, the Bolivian government confirmed the first cases of coronavirus. Since then, drastic measures have been taken: closing land borders, suspending international flights and internal transport, as well as a strict lockdown imposed on the population. ”In Bolivia, the lockdown means strict health measures, no walking on the streets and staying at home, only going out once a week to buy food” explains Fernando Sandalio Vinola, the founder of the Emaus Oruro group. Now there is a total lockdown with checks by the police and the army. Many people are suffering because, unfortunately, throughout the country, and particularly in Oruro, the economy is mainly informal” he warns. During this pandemic, all the group’s activities have been stopped, but the managers are still active while waiting for the easing of restrictions. ”We go to our schools to carry out the respective maintenance work and we’re watering the crops and doing other jobs” explains Fernando.