Emmaus Europe

Georgia: the “balcony of Europe” and a group which is now ready to join the Emmaus movement!

The vitality of our movement can be measured by the exchanges and discussion it creates, the friendships it helps to forge and the mutual aid initiatives that it helps to launch. Our recent visit to the Emmaus GEO group once again proved that our movement’s history is a great example for all. 

In 2015 a small association called ‘Emmaus Georgia’ was created in Tbilisi, Georgia. Working with vulnerable populations (distributing clothes, doing the rounds, etc.) and being active on social media, the group soon created intrigue. Our Ukrainian friends had heard about the group and in 2017 Emmaus Oselya invited the founder of Emmaus GEO, Giorgi, to a meeting of the European groups to discuss the shared challenges faced by the Polish and Ukrainian groups (the Poland-Ukraine collective). At the meeting this little Georgian group and all of the other participants were able to learn more about the scope of our movement and its diversity as well as meeting people and groups who have the same passion for tackling the causes of poverty. After this meeting we had a feeling that a new Emmaus adventure was about to begin – and that this time it would be in Georgia. 

A Steady Journey to Join the Emmaus Movement 

During a long stay in France in the 2010s Giorgi spent some time in Grenoble and came across the local Emmaus group. When he returned to Georgia he couldn’t get the idea of recreating the Emmaus model out of his head. He wanted to help the most vulnerable in Georgia. On the other hand, he knew nothing back then about the national and international scope of the activities led by the solidarity shop he had known in Grenoble. He’s had a lot of learning to do since then! 

Emmaus GEO became a trial member of the Emmaus movement in 2019. The last visit to the group (the ‘pre-membership visit’) took place in late April 2023. The team noted the impressive progress made by the group since their previous visit in June 2021. 

Over the years the group has made real progress and has changed a lot, although it has not been a lightning-quick transformation. Emmaus GEO has benefited from the solid support of the French group Emmaus Annemasse, providing information about the Emmaus movement and supporting our Georgian friends with their projects. Emmaus GEO has been going through things step by step, consolidating its gains and always sticking to its values of unconditional welcome and tackling the causes of poverty – values which are part of the group’s DNA. 

Innovative Activities – An Emmaus Tradition 

Between June 2021 and April 2023 Emmaus GEO strengthened its financial independence by becoming the owner of a house in Kvareli, a small town in the wine region of the country that attracts a significant number of tourists. This house will allow the group to welcome more companions. The companions will be in charge of running a vacation home for tourists. The site will have a few bedrooms and will open in the coming weeks!

In early 2023 the Kvareli town hall also provided the group with a new 113m² sales area with a very attractive shop window. The clothing shop that will be launched there should allow the group to attract new customers and to strengthen its financial independence. The grand opening will be in a few weeks’ time! 

Furthermore, in Tbilisi Emmaus GEO runs a second-hand clothing store which often attracts people who are in vulnerable situations. They swing by for a chat or for a coffee and the volunteers (there are over 30 volunteers already!) are always there to listen. It is more than a mere shop, this site helps to build relationships and represents, in itself, a sort of mutual help network. 

The group is also very active in its initiatives with displaced persons from Abkhazia and South Ossetia who are often living in highly vulnerable situations. Since 2008 these populations have been living on the outskirts of Tbilisi in insalubrious buildings where there is sometimes no electricity or running water. Emmaus GEO visits these people on a weekly basis, distributing food and clean clothing. The group also fights to promote the rights of these populations and to find them paid work. 

News Tackling Poverty / Solidarity

In front of the Emmaus GEO shop in Tbilisi. © Emmaus Europe

Local authorities and associations united for a welcoming Europe

On 15 June we presented a manifesto drafted by around 100 associations and local authorities who fight on a daily basis for a dignified welcome for exiled persons to European commissioners and MEPs in Strasbourg.  

Whilst the Council of European Ministers has recently repealed (on 8 June) one of the key pieces of progress of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the Parliament – to allow asylum seekers to choose a country where they speak the language or where they know people – we continue, amongst other things, to lobby for an end to the Dublin Protocol, a protocol which creates much misery and suffering. 

Following the shock of the disaster in the Mediterranean the day before, where at least 79 people died, it was encouraging to see that local elected representatives and departments continue to mobilise to defend the human rights of exiled persons via the French National Association of Welcoming Towns and Territories and via the Alliance of Safe Harbours in other European Countries.  

We encourage the Emmaus groups who have not yet done so to forge ties with any local members of these networks. 

We will be continuing with our work as part of European proposals and partnerships in the coming months. Emmaus International will also participate in identical mobilisations in the other regions of the globe as part of the Migration Alliance and the Organisation for Universal Citizenship. 

Our proposals
Defending human rights / Migration  European Union News

© Emmaus Europe 

Emmaus Punto: fighting addiction

An interview with Richard, Honorary Chair of the Emmaus Punto group which is based in Bergisch Gladbach. Richard tells us about this German group’s experience and expertise on matters related to addiction. 

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how Emmaus Punto was created? 

I am the Honorary Chair of our association and I also have a full-time job working in a specialist clinic to help people who take drugs. We created a similar project with Emmaus for 6 patients in 2008 and we called it “Punto” for “point” in “turning point”. People who suffer from addiction should be able to free themselves from the scourges of unemployment, loneliness, homelessness and prison. We launched this activity with just €500 of financial support provided by the Emmausbewegung deutscher Zweig e.V. association under the former Chair of the association, the late Stephan Drechsler. I joined the association in 1983 as an active member but it was before I had completed my degree. It made sense for this project to become part of the Emmaus movement.

Could you introduce your community and its unique characteristics  

Our community is based on the long-term commitment of our 20 or so members and our 12 companions. We speak German and Italian within the community because 4 Italians were amongst our founding members. We are confident when discussing how to stop using addictive substances in our weekly discussion groups and in our mutual aid groups. The feelings of gratitude, joy and humility when people become healthy again are very important and very useful to our community – they are at the heart of what we do. 

In addition to your commitment to Emmaus you also work in a specialist addiction clinic. Could you tell us a little about what you do in your job? 

People who take drugs come to our clinic directly from prison or from the rehab departments of hospitals. People stay in our clinic for a period of 9 months and they experience community life already in the clinic. My colleagues and I are trained psychotherapists and we organise discussions with our patients on a daily basis. The objective of these discussions is to clarify what it means to stop using and to start being honest and sincere to themselves, to forgive themselves and, in the best cases, to make some friends and to start a new life after therapy. The success rate of this programme, in terms of the percentage of people who do not take drugs again once they have left the clinic, is around 60%. If there is a good option available to people when they are leaving the clinic, such as joining an Emmaus community, then the success rate immediately jumps to over 80%.  

 What advice would you give to someone who is suffering from addiction? 

People first need to go through a medically-supervised period of detoxification that will last between 2 and 6 weeks. This creates a break, a pause, a cut off in the substance use. Never leave people alone during this period, visit them, have friends around, talk honestly to one another and try to introduce them to new people. This helps to create hope and gives people strength to be able to make important decisions and to take the next steps. Reaching the first few targets, as minor as they may be, is essential if the rest of the process is to be successful. 

Do you have anything else to add? 

We have seen over the years that Emmaus is a highly attractive destination for our patients in the clinic. It is the simple work and the concrete solidarity initiatives that fascinate people. That is why, 15 years after Abbé Pierre passed away, it makes sense to keep moving forward, to keep things simple and to keep the joy in our movement as well as a certain amount of self-criticism and honesty. Emmaus provides a space in society that is essential to many people. We should never forget this. 

Germany News Tackling Poverty / Solidarity

© Emmaus Europe

A childhood in care and then living on the streets: observations by Emmaus Satu Mare

Of the people living on the streets in Europe many spent part of their childhood in care. This is also the case for many of Emmaus’ companions. 

In Romania an Emmaus community has been created specifically to help young people who are coming out of care institutions during the transition to adult life, ensuring that they don’t end up on the streets during this period. We’ll be hearing about the initiatives led by Emmaus Satu Mare from the Chair of this group, Jean-Philippe. Their initiatives may inspire other Emmaus groups based elsewhere in Europe… 

Hi Jean-Philippe, could you tell us a little bit about how your community works? 

Our group was born from a desire to offer an alternative to young people of legal age who had previously been cared for by social services but who, at the age of 18, suddenly have to fend for themselves without proper preparation for the adult world. We help them to rebuild after they have been through experiences which are often quite traumatic so that they can start to think about their futures. We do this by teaching them the basics they will need for daily life and for the working world. Our community is like a bridge between care institutions for minors and the open seas of independent adult life.

Although there are similarities in the challenges faced by children in care in different countries there is a specific context behind these situations in Romania, could you tell us a bit about this? 

Many of you will remember seeing the images of Romanian orphanages that shocked the world in the early 1990s. The terrible conditions in Romania under Ceausescu, the terrible vision of disability from the 1970s onwards (defining children as either ‘recoverable’ or ‘unrecoverable’), the absurdity of the institutional care system (where children were seen as patients, students and apprentices but never as children who had needs of their own) and the negligence which has had dramatic consequences on many children, all of this transformed these huge orphanages (which housed hundreds of children) into places of terrible suffering. 

When Romania joined the EU in 2007 the material situation for children in care institutions improved greatly. On the other hand, the level of training of care staff remains inadequate and mentalities have also been slow to change. In many situations, and despite the various forms of financial support available, young people leave the protection system at the age of 18 having suffered several traumatic experiences and without proper preparation for independent adult life. 

Do you focus on training to enable these young people to move on from your community? 

We work on teaching them key skills in order to deal with the challenges of independent life: 

  • Personal and social skills: thanks to our team of 3 educators, young people can learn to cook, to clean, to look after their personal hygiene and their health, to manage their money and to better handle relationships with other people. They also have weekly discussions with their designated educator as well as having the opportunity to see a psychologist on a weekly basis or to participate in support groups and training workshops twice per month 
  • Professional skills: by working on different tasks in the community (cleaning, cooking, sorting objects, selling objects, sewing textiles, etc.) these young people learn basic skills such as punctuality, teamwork, dealing with responsibility and how to put your phone away when you are at work!  

And what do these young people go on to do next after their time with the community?

If a young person is ready to go into the working world then we will help them to find a job. We will stay in touch with their employer to monitor the situation until they have become settled in the role. 

Furthermore, during their time with the community it is compulsory for these young people to save part of their wages. Thanks to these savings, in addition to a loan provided by our association and/or a bank loan, if they are interested then these young people can buy a flat when they leave our community. In the local area the rental market is not good and thus this is the best way to ensure that they do not end up on the streets as well as providing them with stability. We continue to follow up with these young people on a regular basis, depending on their needs. Those who have been given a loan by our association to buy a flat cannot sell the property without our approval in order to help avoid situations where they are the victims of people with poor intentions. 13 young people have been able to buy a property since 2019. 


News Romania Tackling Poverty / Solidarity

© Emmanuel Rabourdin