Emmaus International

Poppy John Xavier, who has been an active member of Emmaus Kudumbam (in Southern India) for more than 20 years, believes that collective labor cultivates the values of solidarity and respect. For her, the strength of the Emmaus movement lies in its role as ‘seed’ for the future.  

poppy BDWith a jovial smile, Poppy John Xavier tells us that Kudumbam means “family” in Tamil. The term makes perfect sense when she describes Emmaus Kudumbam’s mission: the organization, founded by Oswald Quintal in 1982, is committed to fighting poverty through the development of sustainable agriculture, responsible water use, and the promotion of ancestral agricultural techniques, amongst other things.   

She joined the Kudumbam team in 1994 as a documentarian. In 2010, she became administrator of the Kolunji organic farm, where she coordinated projects on a variety of themes ranging from ecotourism to women’s rights. Aware of massive social inequality in a country that has also been shaken by global warming, leading to widespread drought in agricultural areas and an increase in malnutrition, she emphasizes the importance of finding quick and efficient solutions that rely on collective labor and access to education. She evokes Abbé Pierre and the very foundation of the values that Emmaus defends today: sharing, and solidarity. For her, “solidarity is a fundamental part of collective labor, because work is an expression of solidarity. Mutual respect brings out the uniqueness in each of us, and all are equal in their knowledge and skills.

This approach inspires Poppy John Xavier’s current role as assistant to the director, where she coordinates a variety of programs, for example the project Vidivelli, which provides children experiencing extreme poverty with educational opportunities and agro-ecological training. Determined to convey the importance of integrating these values into her daily work, she concludes: “education leads to human rights, because education creates shared perspectives that inspire collective change. Women must also have access to education, in order to emancipate themselves, and share their knowledge.