This month, during the Romania Collective which took place in Iași, we have discussed with Maryse, elected representative in the board of directors of Emmaus International. She has explained us her path within the Emmaus Movement.
What is the Romania Collective?
The Romania Collective takes place twice a year with people from Romanian Emmaus communities (Iași, Satu Mare and Târgu Jiu), Emmaus International and Emmaus Europe office workers, and friends from other european communities (England, Switzerland). There we talk about the Romanian communities growth and projects, the Emmaus Movement issues at the european scale and the upcoming international events.
Maryse, since when have you been involved in the board of directors of Emmaus International?
I have been elected only recently, in September 2017.
Can you explain us what is the role of Emmaus International within the Emmaus Movement?
I don’t have the whole information, this is only my point of view.
First, Emmaus International is heir to l’Abbé Pierre, and of everything that is connected with him. This is why Emmaus International has a section about the story of l’Abbé Pierre in the website (www.emmaus-international.org). There is also actemmaus.org, offering short videos with plenty of stories throughout the world.
Emmaus International grew step by step: after the Winter 54 (note: during this period, l’Abbé Pierre created the Emmaus Movement), some countries asked for l’Abbé Pierre’s help to support local groups, that became Emmaus groups.
It is a pyramidal organization with four regions: Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Emmaus International is thus the result of the local groups that raised on the spot, but they needed a more important entity to exist. In Europe, for example, some groups in Georgia and in Lettonia, that are not Emmaus groups yet, made a call to Emmaus International in order to join the network. To be part of Emmaus International is a legitimacy, it is a recognition, different from the recognition they have in their country of origin. Even in France, there are some groups that share Emmaus values, and they need to be called Emmaus, because the more we are, the stronger Emmaus is, the appeal can be more important, and their action on the spot can increase.
The groups within Emmaus International are very diverse in their activities; the main thing is that they share the Emmaus values.
It is important to remind the Emmaus struggles: the struggles about ecology, free movement of people, and social justice. Those struggles are not only words: for instance, Emmaus International implemented health insurances in some countries of Africa or in India, it is a big step. Each group, each country brings interesting experiences. To take the example of the international work camps, the stake is to share various analysis about one common topic, as the topic of the organic farming during the international camp of Kudumbam in India.
Concerning the free movement of people, the visas are a big issue in Emmaus International, because even the current president, who comes from Benin, has trouble travelling, it has been the case in Peru for example, it was hard for him to get a visa.
Can you talk about your experience in the Movement, before Emmaus International?
I started being a faithful customer of the Emmaus shop in Châlon-sur-Saône (France). It is true that as a customer, it is not certain that you are aware of what are the values, what does the Movement. After I retired, I have been volunteer in Emmaus at the sorting of donations. I like the work around the bric-à-brac stores.
In the community, there were not many candidates to be part of the board of directors. So they asked me if I was interested, and I said yes.
Then, our group representative at Emmaus France wished to leave. I replaced him and there, I discovered the extent and the struggles of the Movement. I was elected in what we call the “3th branch”, the training and insertion branch. It has been an extraordinary opening, and a strong meeting with young employees who taught me a lot. It was among my motivations, to be with young people. In Emmaus France, I was involved in two commissions that were very interesting: the solidarity and the groups monitoring.
I always have liked to know what is happening abroad, and to travel. This is why I was interested by Emmaus International, but at the beginning, I would never have had the idea to offer my candidature for the board of directors.
The files we work on are very interesting. We feel that we actually do something, we work for something. The decisions we take in assembly, then we implement it.
You just were involved in the Romania Collective in Iași. What can you say about it?
It is the second Romania Collective I participate in. I have an emotional bond with Romania. But in general, the elected representatives of Emmaus International don’t come, it is rather the employees, or members of Emmaus groups who have a special bond with the Romanian groups. This time, I came as Emmaus Châlon-sur-Saône member.
Now I see things differently concerning the trucks of donations, I wouldn’t send the same things. We have to be careful about what we put in the trucks: for instance, a group in Africa received skis… It has to be done depending on the needs of the communities.