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:


Ateliers du bocage  (France

The Ateliers du bocage cooperative is a reintegration enterprise with 25 years of recognised expertise in recycling and reuse. During the lockdown period, digital tools are essential: working remotely, ensuring that children continue their education, staying in contact with those close to us, carrying out administrative procedures, among others. But what is in place for the most disadvantaged? “The lockdown that was imposed during this health crisis has revealed mass digital exclusion which continues to isolate the disadvantaged and most vulnerable members of society. Similarly, children are deprived of their fundamental right to education and senior citizens become isolated as they are unable to communicate and keep in touch with their loved ones. Over a third of households with low incomes do not have access to the necessary IT equipment”, the cooperative states on its Facebook page. To bridge the digital divide and counter these inequalities, “Ateliers du bocage” helps people who are majorly excluded from the digital world. During the lockdown and even today, they are providing local associations with telephones, laptops and CPUs with screens.


Emmaus Pahou  (Bénin) 

Since the first case of coronavirus in Benin, life for the population has been disrupted. At the end of March, a health cordon was set up - regrouping 15 large cities, imposing a partial lockdown. “All the groups in the country are within the health cordon, which led to the closure of almost all of our activities on 1st April" explains Patrick Atohoun, leader of Emmaus Pahou. “In our group, we have communicated the preventive measures from the government, set up a hand-washing station and distributed masks made by craft workers to the staff at the head office. We have suspended all activities that require meeting users”, he states. “With regard to our activities, 17 companions are in lockdown in the community. This unprecedented situation has mobilised everyone. “We need to work more to increase our income”, he adds. “The hopes of companions are not fulfilled for the time being because the restrictions related to the crisis do not allow for the normal sale of our products: markets are less busy and customers from bordering countries are no longer coming to buy our market garden products" he warns.

AEP  (Lebanon) 

AEP’s beneficiaries are among the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Due to their living conditions and occupations, their families often have a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than others. "They are also among the most financially vulnerable, with little or no savings at all to allow them to get through the current period of severe economic hardship in Lebanon" states Camille Chedid, Chair of AEP. "Following the government’s decision to take strict public health measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and allow its health system to cope, AEP suspended its activity and operations in terms of providing new loans, field visits and technical assistance. Consequently all of our work was shifted to online and working from home" he explains. "As of April 27, AEP started resuming its activity gradually, the key operations performed are: borrowers’ support with regular phone calls and technical assistance and the implementation of a profound analysis for each beneficiary to tailor and execute support measures  - such as easing the terms of debt that the borrowers cannot pay when economies seize up, suspending repayments, restructuring existing loans, applying discounts on file fees and modifying repayment schedules to make smaller monthly instalments" he concludes.

Emmaus Igualdade  (Brazil) 

In Brazil, the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread through the country as President Jair Bolsonaro stands by his hostile position towards lockdown. “Our president, going against the world of science, the WHO, the governors and the mayors of Brazil, is speaking out against social distancing saying that it would spell the end of the country’s economy and that he could not be held responsible. He also goes out into the street without any precautions, encouraging demonstrations and popular gatherings”, warns Tania Schubert from the Igualdade community. Despite this health crisis, the Emmaus Igualdade community has managed to keep up its partnerships with supermarkets, to meet the needs of companions. “Although we can no longer welcome people into the community, we offer food to people who knock on our door”, she explains. “We are also part of a group organised in our town called “Fortalecendo laços” [Strengthening ties], which offers food parcels to people living on the street”, she adds. The community also supports shelters, offering furniture, mattresses and other items they have available. “We hope to be able to relaunch our activities intensively when this pandemic is over”, concludes Tania.