Emmaus International

Patrick Atohoun, leader of the Emmaus Pahou group in Benin and active in the movement since 1992, is the new Chair of Emmaus International. He talks about the plans he has for his chairmanship.

Tell us about your journey with Emmaus 

I worked for the archbishop of Cotonou, who created Emmaus Hêvié. The group joined Emmaus International in 1992, before becoming Emmaus Pahou in 2003. I’m now its leader. We work with young people in difficulty, who take drugs, are unemployed, whose family relationships have broken down or have been in prison. We help them reintegrate into society and the world of work through training in agriculture, livestock and fish farming. For 10 years I’ve also headed up the Nokoué project.

Why did you want to become Chair?

My work, in my group or to Nokoué, led me to take on responsibility in the Africa region, then in Emmaus International bodies, as Secretary then Vice-Chair. I’d now like to fully devote myself to serving the movement in the hope of giving back as much as it’s given me. Having a chair from the ‘South’ could be a great chapter in our history, as all former chairs have been European. This shows the movement’s maturity, it sees groups from other continents not as ‘recipients’ of solidarity but as a source of inspiration, along with all other groups. We should learn from each other and pursue the same goals.

What plans do you have for Emmaus?

We’ll implement the World Assembly’s resolutions. I expect the elected members to embrace the decisions taken and commit themselves to their role, without ever losing sight of the interests of the movement. The Emmaus International secretariat has been restructured to better carry out its work. I’d like us to be a movement united in addressing our joint challenge: improving the well-being of the people we work with. Finally, I’d like Abbé Pierre’s struggles and our values to be shared and respected by everyone, that Abbé Pierre’s saying ‘come and help me help’ be brought to life.

Interview Atohoun