“At every meeting of the Collective, each Romanian group shares with us their work, the progress they’ve made, their difficulties etc. We look at the annual solidarity programme, container shipments, economic developments at local level… But we also review the life of the Movement: follow-up to the Manchester Assembly, the forthcoming World Assembly in Jesolo, the Paris Salon etc.
This was the first time I had attended a meeting of this Collective, having been part of the Poland/Ukraine Collective for several years… Gilles had already told me a lot about this captivating country…. But I was bowled over by what I saw and heard and inspired by the work that Emmaus teams are doing at grassroots level.
The communities are composed of young people; most have grown up in orphanages, then lived on the streets for a number of years without family or support. When they reach adulthood and leave the orphanage, they are abandoned for a second time, with no other option but to live on the streets… What’s more, a new phenomenon is now appearing in Romania… In Satu Mare, there are around a hundred under-age children being monitored more or less closely by the town hall’s social services department, because their parents have gone abroad. They have been given over to the care of a grandmother, a neighbour or even left to fend for themselves, with their parents sending them a small amount of money each month.
Let’s get better acquainted with the Emmaus groups in Satu Mare and Iasi with whom we have regular links thanks to Gilles who visits Romania several times a year.
Emmaus Frères Europa in Satu Mare employs around fifteen young people from very complex backgrounds; they are emerging from 5, 7 or even 10 years of living on the streets, with problems including alcohol or glue additions… and psychologically, they are extremely vulnerable. They have a branch in Timisoara along with an isolated house which they use for 4 months per year for short-term residential care to give the young people a complete break, after which they can join the community.
With this in mind, Jean-Philippe [Frères Europa leader] has strengthened his team by recruiting a social worker. Two leaders are permanently responsible now for the house and shop and the group is working with a psychologist and a lawyer.
The Timisoara branch is now able to collect goods throughout the city thanks to a lorry given by the Roanne Committee and transported by Gilles in 2015.
Emmaus Iasi Un coup de main was formed 16 years ago; 30 to 40 companions are housed in the community which carries out the usual work of collecting and selling second-hand goods. In addition, every evening it runs a solidarity kitchen, distributing sandwiches and tea to 100 young people living on the streets.
A report was filmed by a Romanian television crew, who went to meet young people and children living on the streets supported by the Emmaus foundation. The film can be viewed on the Iasi community’s Facebook page. We watched it in the evening, after which everyone was invited to express what Emmaus means to them… It was a very emotional experience… Following the personal accounts given by Gelu, leader of Emmaus Iasi and Willi, leader of Emmaus Cologne and Chair of Emmaus Europe, it was the young people’s turn to talk about their lives. They described the appalling conditions they had endured first in the orphanage, then on the streets and spoke of the sense of hope they had felt since coming into Emmaus… I have to tell you we were deeply moved by their stories…
And feel huge admiration for the work being done to provide shelter and support over there, and a desire to help them. Plus we need to make sure that volunteers and staff who prepare the shipments understand their work is a vital link in helping groups that have neither the equipment available nor the financial resources we benefit from… But who on a daily basis demonstrate the commitment and ingenuity required to provide shelter and support to these young people, who have done nothing wrong but to have had the misfortune of being abandoned.
Emmaus Iasi Un coup de main also has a farm in Popesti run by around fifteen companions and it was to support this farm that the last shipment included a 4-share plough and baler; they have recently acquired a tractor (given by the Emmaus region Limousin/Centre/Auvergne) and can now benefit from mechanised working.
We met up again with Thomas, who came to us to do a placement in Mably, where he painted a fresco on the entrance wall… He is doing ‘civic’ service (a community programme for volunteers) in Iasi where he is happy, enthusiastic and already planning to extend his period of voluntary work. He is setting up a furniture makeover workshop, is involved in community life and is discovering the values and work that Emmaus espouses… He thanked the Roanne Committee which gave him the helping hand he needed to embark on this fabulous adventure.”
Gilles Thevenon and Marie-Claude Jeannet, representatives from the Emmaus Roanne-Mably friend’s committee