Year the first organisation was set up: 1961
Year the first organisation became a member: 1971
Member organisations: 15 Countries: 9
Trial members: 4
In November 1949, Abbé Pierre set up the first Emmaus community in Neuilly-Plaisance, on the outskirts of Paris. At almost exactly the same time, people were setting up similar initiatives in other countries, including Belgium, Argentina and Japan. These people knew nothing of Abbé Pierre or Emmaus in France until the Abbé's call for action on 1st February 1954, which caught the world's attention. They saw their own values reflected in Abbé Pierre's work and got in touch with him.
Wherever they are in the world, Emmaus organisations almost always grow from initiatives set up by local people in response to local needs, using local resources and expertise. They are never imposed on communities from outside.
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Elected members representing Africa on the Emmaus International board:
Jean Berchmans (Burundi)
Nantegue Kone (Côte d'Ivoire)
François d'Assise Tokpo (Benin)
Suzanne Waré (Burkina Faso)
The beginnings of Emmaus in Africa
The story of Emmaus in Africa started in 1961 on Gatagara hill in Rwanda, where Belgian priest Joseph Fraipont, who had previously volunteered with Emmaus in France, set up a home for disabled children, who had until then been hidden by their families. This centre provided care, education and professional training for these young people, using innovative methods. The priest instilled Emmaus values in those who worked at the centre and the organisation was a founding member of Emmaus International in 1971. From the very beginning, the priest worked closely with local people. However, after his death in 1982, his followers drifted away from the Emmaus movement.
The 1990s saw a resurgence of the Emmaus movement in Africa, thanks to Albert Tévoédjrè, Beninese politician and Assistant Director of the International Labour Office. In 1978 he published Pauvreté, richesse des peuples and was invited to speak about his book at the Emmaus world assembly in Namur in 1984. There, he discovered our movement and saw how it could be of great benefit to communities across Africa. He later met Véronique Gnanih, also from Benin, in 1988 in Geneva. She was working on a project to raise funds using household waste, and he told her about Emmaus. Together, they set up Emmaus Tohouè in Benin in 1989.
One of the most important events in the resurgence of Emmaus in Africa was the first Emmaus International conference in Porto Novo, Benin, held in November 1989 and organised in collaboration with Albert Tévoédjrè. Several local organisations from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Togo were invited. Two more conferences were then held: in 1991 in Burkina Faso and in 1993 in Cameroon. This led to some existing organisations becoming members of Emmaus International and other organisations being established. For example, the Centre for Health and Social Care (Centre de promotion sanitaire et sociale), which was set up in 1978 in Mom-Dibang in Cameroon became a member of Emmaus International in 1991.
This was also the case for two organisations in Burkina Faso: Benebnooma, based in Koudougou and Pag-la-Yiri, based in Zabré. They were invited by Emmaus Arezzo, in Italy, which knew of them as Arezzo had been working with a Burkinabe village committee since the mid-1970s. Two new organisations were established in Burkina Faso as a result of the 1991 conference: Solidarity and Mutual Support in Sahel (Solidarité et Entraide Mutuelle au Sahel) and Emmaus Solidarity Ouaga (Emmaüs Solidarité Ouaga), both of which became members of Emmaus International in 1997.
Albert Tévoédjrè spoke about Emmaus to his friend Isidore de Souza, coadjutor bishop of Cotonou, Benin. Won over during a stint in a French Emmaus community, whose praises he sang in the Vatican itself, de Souza set up Emmaüs Hêvié, now known as Emmaus Pahou, in 1991.
In 2002, the movement decided to increase its presence in Africa, and many local organisations joined the movement in 2003 and 2004.
The Movement for Action for Social Change (Mouvement d’action pour le renouveau social) in Togo is the most recent member of Emmaus International, having joined in 2012.