For the past four years, the Emmaus in all of its facets training course has focused on the Emmaus Movement’s history and values. In a sociable ambience, Emmaus activists are invited to deepen their knowledge in order to strengthen their feeling of belonging to the Emmaus Movement. In 2017, the training course took place from 11 – 14 June at Emmaus Cologne. Jean-Jacques tells us about his experience.
How long have you been with Emmaus?
I joined in 2011 (after 40 years in the navy) as a volunteer at Emmaus Rédéné / Quimperlé (France). I opted to work in the second-hand clothes area (stripes, lace, military and retro), sorting, displaying and selling the clothing.
I was elected onto the board after two years, then onto the executive committee, and was elected president in 2016 and re-elected in 2017. I also sit on the community life/solidarity/works/economic committees.
We were also part of a drama group for over three years and performed Phèdre les oiseaux. We set out from Rédéné (companions and volunteers together) and criss-crossed France (directed by Jean Baptiste Sastre and Hiam Abbas, a well-known actress). We played at theatres in Lorient, Toulouse, the Château Vallon, the Institut du monde arabe in Paris, Nantes and Marseille, with socially-excluded people travelling from across Europe (the first year of culture), finishing in Aix-en-Provence.
I also took part in a three-week work camp in Northern Peru (Lambayeque) harnessing the skills of friends, leaders and companions on a difficult project. We successfully completed the project and met some amazing people.
What made you want to take part in this training course?
It was important for me to take part in this course (I had wanted to do it for two years). I feel that Europe is on our doorstep and gaining an overview and having a more open-minded approach to our world, our neighbouring countries and their different way of doing things, can raise issues and offer us a new and interesting approach for our communities.
This can enable us to develop our working methods in a common sense way! Raising issues in other countries can provide us with answers.
What did you learn? What will be useful to you in your daily life?
This is my fourth training course and once again this course gave me a strong sense of attachment to Abbé Pierre’s ethos (he is my guide).
Brigitte Mary, the Emmaus International volunteer for archives and keeping Abbé Pierre’s memory alive, once again enlightened us with her many anecdotes which are still so relevant today! They focused on policy directions in the wake of the Jesolo World Assembly and the renewed insurrection of intelligence against absurdity and in favour of justice. “It is not enough to act, we must conquer – defeating the forces pushing against us”, said Abbé Pierre.
We draw on these resolutions and principles of action on a daily basis, while always working together. We must always endeavour to focus on advocacy work, even if we have few resources, and in fact we did just that in our community by inviting the prefect of the Finistère region to visit us. The outcome was six undocumented migrants being given leave to remain. Of course, it was a drop in the ocean, but we will prevail and will generate a tidal wave of regularisations!
What did you like the most? What surprised you?
I really appreciated the chance to chat with the other participants and the amazing warm welcome from Willi Does, the president of Emmaus Europe and leader of Emmaus Cologne. He welcomed us to his community and family and showed us a different way of ‘living together’. It was lovely to feel a real sense of sharing! Using another language or languages, having to speak to others in English, Spanish or German; in any case, when we speak from the heart, we always understand each other.
The approaches and lives of the other communities and organisations made us think about the vision from the Abbé Pierre era and the wonderful way that the Movement developed from Finland to Ukraine.
Everyone’s commitment convinced me, although it did not surprise me, and it shows that we are heading in the right direction and are still following in the footsteps of Abbé Pierre.
Would you advise other members of the movement to take part?
Go for it, register and take part in this training course in order to challenge yourself and above all to showcase our communities and organisations to others. These courses are moments of truth and interaction, they enable us to show our differences and feel that everyone adheres to the same values!