Emmaus Europe

Summer camps: committed youth and new vocations

Summer camps have been at the heart of the Emmaus movement since the 1960s. These gatherings have shaped the movement as it is today and were the starting point for many “vocations” within Emmaus. Let us take a look at how these social and solidarity events work.

Before we delve into the history of the summer camps, what camps are available for young people in 2024?

This year once again, several groups in Europe and in France are opening their doors to young people who would like to get involved!

Emmaus Lisbon is one of them, offering a two-week immersion within the community, between 1st July and 1st September. This immersion will involve participating in community life with the Emmaus companions and getting involved in the organisation’s business activities: collecting donations, sorting stock, shop management, upcycling and gardening. This year, Emmaus Lisbon is also organising a Solidarity Festival throughout the summer: each group of volunteers will be actively involved in highlighting forgotten causes! Every fortnight will end with a concert (DJ set, jam sessions, etc.). Getting involved in a solidarity project is above all meaningful, but it is also about sharing unforgettable moments!

Other Emmaus groups in Italy, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina and in France organise camps throughout the summer months.

How can I find out more and apply, or sign up for a camp?

For summer camps outside of France, all the groups’ initiatives can be found on the Emmaus Europe web page devoted to this topic. For France, all the information can be found on this page on Emmaus France’s website. And to find out more, you can also contact Emmanuel!

How did the summer camps begin?

It is impossible to dissociate the growth of the Emmaus movement around the world from the development of the summer camps. They started during the 1960s in Normandy to encourage young people to get involved and combat poverty.

During the summer, these “international work camps” operated like real Emmaus communities: door-to-door collections of donations, and sorting, repairing or reselling of second-hand goods. At the time, the summer camps were organised voluntarily by young people for other young people, “out of thin air” (with no budget). They raised funds that were redistributed to benefit solidarity projects within the country and internationally, with a portion used to develop new Emmaus projects. They could also be used to set up a fund and a group of volunteers to create a friends’ committee or a community on a new site.

Encouraged by Abbé Pierre, these international youth camps quickly resulted in thousands of young people of different nationalities gathering together, in France as well as in Italy and Denmark. Between June and October 1972, the camp in Bourgogne drew 4,500 young people of 44 nationalities together!

After an international camp, it was not unusual for young people who had discovered Emmaus to become leaders of a new community and/or meet the love of their life! Little by little, these camps led to the development of many groups in France and abroad.

Is it dangerous to get involved in a summer camp?

Very dangerous! Even today, there is a significant risk of getting stuck in the Emmaus galaxy and dedicating your life (or at least a large part of it) to fighting poverty and exclusion after you have been at a summer camp, bringing meaning to your life in the long term.

In fact, after experiencing their first summer camp, many decide to get more involved and even go on to set up an Emmaus living community or a friends’ committee!

Word to the wise….will we meet again on the ground?

Discover the 2024 summer camps

News Summer camps
Camps internationaux de jeunes au Danemark, 1969.

Camps internationaux de jeunes au Danemark, 1969. Photo issue des archives de l’abbé Pierre et d’Emmaüs International déposées aux ANMT (Roubaix).

European elections: a crucial issue for Emmaus

Between 6th and 9th June 2024, European Union citizens will elect the MEPs who will represent them at the European Parliament for the next five years.  These elections will largely determine what Europe will look like over the coming years.

Emmaus is taking action

With a view to raising awareness of the issues that affect our work and values in the run up to the European elections, Emmaus Europe has taken action on a number of fronts to raise awareness about these elections and their importance for Emmaus.

  • Our groups are opening their doors to election candidates who wish to find out more about what we do. We are inviting them to visit our premises, learn more about our work and become aware of the challenges we face.
  • Emmaus Europe has drafted two position papers, setting out our recommendations for action for the next 5-year term, and has also produced a leaflet to get as many people involved as possible.

General proposals – short version Detailed proposals – long version

Europe – a vital decision-making level for Emmaus’ work

European Union (EU) policies play a decisive role in the daily lives of each and every one of us, influencing matters such as our currency, movement between countries and agriculture.
For Emmaus, almost all areas of our work are affected by European laws.

The EU, Emmaus and the Social and Solidarity Circular Economy

European policies play a vital role in the day-to-day work of Emmaus groups, particularly in terms of our collecting, sorting, re-use and recycling activities. European Union directives on waste management regulate collection and sorting and have an impact on the re-use percentage to be applied in each country, which in turn influences our practices. For example, a separate collection of textiles will become obligatory in all EU countries by 2025. Emmaus Europe is calling for re-use and Social and Solidarity Economy stakeholders to feature prominently in these policies.

The EU, Emmaus and combating poverty and its causes

Although the EU cannot intervene directly in the social policies of Member States, it has recently strengthened its legislative framework to promote social rights. The aim is to encourage greater convergence of national policies and mobilise financial resources for this purpose. For example, the EU adopted the European Pillar of Social Rights, along with an ambitious action plan, particularly with regard to combating homelessness and ensuring a minimum wage. Emmaus Europe is active within the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and is campaigning to ensure that everyone has access to social protection and a minimum income representing at least 60% of the average standard of living in each Member State. The EU can also take action in other areas related to the causes of poverty, such as access to energy, health care, decent housing and digital technology. For example, the European Green Pact supports policies to renovate buildings to make them more energy efficient, and we are working to ensure that the poorest people benefit first.

The EU, Emmaus and welcoming migrants and refugees

One of the European Union’s major responsibilities concerns migration policies. The EU directly influences border management, and the way migrants and refugees are received, treated and integrated into European societies. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the EU has steered its policies towards tightening the closure of its borders and refusing to accept migrants. This disastrous policy approach is dramatically affecting the lives of people on the move who arrive in Europe. Emmaus firmly opposes this approach and defends freedom of movement and our vision of unconditional welcome.

The far right: a threat to Emmaus’ activities in Europe

We are very concerned about the rise of far-right parties, which pose a serious threat to organisations such as Emmaus, particularly in terms of our unconditional welcome policy, as well as our work to combat poverty. It is crucial to stand firm against the influence of parties dominated by racism and xenophobia that pit poor people against each other.
Are you a member of Emmaus Europe? Please also check out the webpage dedicated to the European elections on the home page of our member’s area.


Are you a member of Emmaus Europe? Please also check out the webpage dedicated to the European elections on the home page of our member’s area.

Manon Gaham, Advocacy and Awareness-raising Officer: manon.gaham@emmaus-europe.org
Eve Poulteau, Chief Executive: eve.poulteau@emmaus-europe.org
Circular economy / The environment  Defending human rights / Migration  European Union News Tackling Poverty / Solidarity

Geographical collectives: a key event in the Emmaus year

In March 2024, two important events were held for Emmaus Europe groups: the Poland-Ukraine Collective and Romania Collective. These meetings offered a chance to tackle the thorny issue of business models for groups in these regions, in light of the challenges they face, whether political, economic or legal. We asked Emmanuel Rabourdin, Head of Solidarity, to tell us more.

Why was the issue of economic autonomy for Emmaus groups in Eastern Europe discussed?

Several factors prompted us to address this issue collectively with the groups.

Firstly, Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine has caused widespread economic upheaval in the region: inflation, sharp rise in fuel and energy prices, growing inequalities, among other effects.

These consequences have had a direct impact on Eastern European groups, most of which have based their business model, to some extent, on solidarity, in the form of goods transported by Western European groups. One of the challenges for these collectives was to start looking at how to avoid becoming “dependent” on solidarity, while maintaining strong ties with the Emmaus groups that transport goods.

Finally, and this is especially true in Romania, transporting solidarity goods has really been put to the test in recent months by overzealous Romanian customs officials. Romanian customs sent back several Emmaus lorries without any legal basis (and therefore without permitting the decision to be challenged on a reasoned basis), on the grounds that the country does not wish to receive Western Europe’s “waste”. The reasons cited: cobwebs on the furniture, blankets (protecting the furniture) that had not been disinfected, among others. This situation, which is in the process of being resolved, highlighted the fragility of business models based largely on the transport of goods, and the need for groups to develop new economic activities built on local opportunities.

Are you saying that we should stop transporting goods to Eastern Europe?

No, transported goods are still essential for these groups, we are simply saying that it is not enough. Moreover, it means we avoid destroying good quality furniture that is not sold in Western Europe but is very popular in Eastern Europe. It is also a great opportunity for exchanges between groups.

Were the collectives able to discuss future prospects for the groups?

Absolutely! Solutions exist, and groups are already seizing them. In Poland, the collection of donations is expanding and becoming increasingly important in the groups’ business activity. Some have already begun to diversify their business model, for example by opening a pizzeria in Lublin, or developing specialised skills in restoring antique furniture, such as in Brat Albert.

In Romania, the Satu Mare group has been developing two new business activities over the last two years: creating rags for industrial use by companies and setting up a sewing workshop, making tote bags in particular. Spurred on by their recognition as a protected unit (with more than 50% of its employees having some form of disability) these two activities are aimed primarily at public and private sector companies. Purchasing products from protected units enables companies to benefit from state subsidies.

In Iași, the group is also expanding into moulding concrete paving stones and ironwork, in addition to their farming activities and their Popești farm.

Both collectives were able to pinpoint needs in terms of support for groups making this economic transition. Of course, this does not mean stopping the transport programme, which reflects internal solidarity within the Emmaus movement extending far beyond the transported goods. Besides, groups will still need this solidarity support in the years to come. The aim was above all to discuss ways of diversifying their activities and strengthening their autonomy, in line with the resolutions of the World Assembly in Piriapolis (2022).

What are the consequences of the war in Ukraine for Eastern European groups and for the movement as a whole? 

First and foremost, both collectives provided an opportunity to hear from those who are experiencing the conflict first hand: Natalia, director of the Ukrainian group Oselya, and Grigory, the National Delegate of Ukraine, spoke of the difficulties faced by the group since the start of the large-scale invasion, and the dangers of a Russian victory in Ukraine. Similarly, groups from Poland, Georgia and Romania reminded us of the dangers that Putin’s Russia represents for individual freedoms, freedom of association, and the treatment of minorities and vulnerable people. The term “resist”, as used by Abbé Pierre during the Second World War, came up several times in the debates.

Bringing together representatives from groups based in ten different countries, these collectives were an opportunity to listen to everyone’s feelings about the conflict, at a time when the debate on the Emmaus movement’s position on armed conflicts is being raised at regional and international level.

A final collective meeting will take place in Trogir, Croatia, at the beginning of June: the feedback from our Croatian and Bosnian friends will be crucial, just under 30 years after the conflict that engulfed the region in the 1990s. The matter of reconstruction will be addressed in light of their recent experience.


What is a “geographical collective”?

Each year, the collectives bring together groups from one region of Europe to discuss issues relating to that region and to promote European solidarity. Three collectives exist:

  • The Poland-Ukraine Collective, which has gradually expanded and now includes Emmaus groups present in Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania.
  • The Romania Collective, with the three Romanian groups.
  • The South-East Europe Collective, which comprises groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

These three collectives focus on these European regions, but they are also open to all members of the movement who wish to take part. These meetings are an opportunity to learn about other ways of putting the Emmaus model into practice and are a great way to understand more about issues in other European countries.

News Tackling Poverty / Solidarity

© Emmaus Europe

New Pact on Migration and Asylum

On 10 April, the European Parliament voted on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

This pact contains eight texts, all aimed at tightening external border control and undermining freedom of movement and settlement.

Normalising the practice of refoulement

In practical terms, this legislation will allow people who do not apply for asylum to be returned directly to the border. Refugees will still be prevented from submitting their asylum applications in the country that they would like to go to, where it would be easier for them to rebuild their lives because they speak the language of that country or already know people there.

Widespread detention at borders

Those seeking asylum will be detained in “sorting centres” outside the territory or at the border while waiting for their applications to be examined. Sorting will be carried out mainly on the basis of the applicant’s nationalitý, without really taking into account the individual nature of his or her situation. People will be held in these detention centres, and deprived of their freedom, for up to 12 weeks.

No real solidarity and the externalisation of borders

European Union member countries will be able to choose not to receive a person seeking asylum by opting for an alternative: they can pay €20,000, provide human resources to “protect” the EU’s borders (such as sending national border officers to European sorting centres), or they can put in place national policies to externalise borders (e.g. create bilateral agreements to expel people to countries that are often perpetrators of human rights violations).

“Instrumentalisation”, yet another concept for circumventing the right to asylum

This pact introduces a new concept known as the “instrumentalisation” of migration. As such, if the EU considers that a non-EU member is trying to put pressure on it by sending a large number of migrants to its borders, it could decide to suspend the processing of asylum applications altogether.

Identification and forced fingerprinting from the age of six

The Eurodac system (a European database that registers the fingerprints of migrants and asylum seekers in order to identify them) will from now on contain records (fingerprints and facial images) of all foreigners, including minors from the age of six, even if done so under duress.

Slight progress on employment of asylum seekers

Lastly, a directive on reception conditions shows marginal progress by giving asylum seekers the opportunity to work after six months in the country, instead of the current nine months. There are also improved guarantees on reception conditions. However, the downside to this is the widespread use of house arrest.


Emmaus Europe strongly opposes this text! We urge you to take action by posting a message on social media to voice your opposition to this pact, using the hashtag #NotThisPact. Do not forget to tag @emmauseurope so that we can share your messages.

Defending human rights / Migration  European Union News