There are three European geographical collectives and they meet once or twice a year to discuss issues relevant to the groups in the region, support the development of new groups, and organise solidarity in the movement. All the Emmaus groups in Europe are welcome to take part. On 26-7 March 2019 the Poland-Ukraine Collective met in Lviv in Ukraine. Feedback on the meeting of this working group is provided by two participants, Dieudonné from Emmaus Solidarité (France), and Helka from Emmaus Helsinki (Finland).
How long have you been with Emmaus?
Helka I have been a member for 14 years and have sat on the board and been president of Emmaus Helsinki and Emmaus Finland. I currently volunteer at Emmaus Helsinki and I took part in the Poland-Ukraine collective for the first time in 2009 in Lviv.
Dieudonné I have been a department head at Emmaus Solidarité since 2014. I supervise the sheltered accommodation teams, having previously worked in daytime provision and the emergency accommodation centres, notably for migrants.
What does solidarity mean to you?
Dieudonné Our world is increasingly complex and we therefore tend to shut ourselves away. Solidarity is more and more important, as the most vulnerable people will be unable to get by without it. It all revolves around human dignity, which is a fundamental right.
Helka Emmaus is not a charity, the idea is to work together with the most socially excluded people. We prefer to work rather than give money. Solidarity means working in partnership to share commonly-held assets. However, it isn’t always easy, and sometimes we do just end up helping, particularly for faraway countries where we can’t easily meet people.
Why do you take part in the collective? What does it mean to you?
Helka That is precisely what makes the collective worthwhile – you meet people. For Emmaus Helsinki, coming to the collective is first and foremost about meeting other people and working face-to-face on equal terms. You gain a good idea of people’s needs and you can share in their successes, too. The collective is exactly the right level at which to work, as it remains practical, and I am not one for lofty speeches.
Dieudonné This is my first time at the collective. I wanted to find out about Emmaus Europe, which I had heard about from my colleagues, who are already involved. This forum enables us to compare experiences, identify needs in order to improve our efforts to address poverty, and address it together, as although the symptoms of poverty are different across the world, poverty itself is universal. The discussions also help to improve how we support excluded people by comparing different realities.
What are you taking away?
Dieudonné The collective is a place for free speech, even if each group is at a different development level, every participant can take something from the meeting. This enables us to help each other to improve our work and support.
Helka On a personal level, it is very enriching, and that is why at Emmaus Helsinki we try to rotate the members who take part, so that everyone can benefit from the experience. There are no residential communities in Finland, so it is interesting to see how such an organisation operates and to meet companions. Finally, it is always very motivational and inspiring to see other people doing the same sort of work as us across the world.
The next Poland-Ukraine Collective will be held in Latvia in April 2020. For more information, please read the minutes of the last few collective meetings and contact the Emmaus Europe Secretariat.