Sean’s journey to Emmaus Romania
I’m Sean and I wanted to share with you my experience of solidarity.
Before I found myself homeless I had always travelled, so when the opportunity to visit Emmaus Romania came up I was keen to go. I’ve now been twice. The first time I visited Emmaus Romania was in the Easter holidays of 2014. I went for a 16 day solidarity work camp in the city of Targu Jiu, where we helped build a house for young Romanian homeless people, aged 16 to 20. The second, and the most recent time I visited, was for a three week exchange at the community in Satu Mare, where I worked in their furniture store and lived in the community as a companion.
On reflection I wanted to visit Emmaus Romania to see how their community worked, to have a new experience, and for my own personal development. I went to help make something better, to help create something that would make a difference. On my first trip to Romania I was completely shocked by the amount of poverty. It really was heart-breaking witnessing the poverty and I was emotionally drained. You could turn any street corner and see poverty and people living in shacks. I noticed that the homeless people had little opportunity to get themselves out of poverty; there was a huge divide in the class system. But at the same time they were still happy people, you’d hear more laughter than moaning, and they would always give you half of what they’ve got, even if they haven’t got a lot. I found that inspiring.
I found that the Romanian communities were different from the UK communities in lots of ways. We have a lot more than they do. For example, the companions have to pay for the food that they eat in the community with the allowance they receive. One day I went food shopping with one of the Romanian companions who was given the equivalent of £10 to feed 25 people. It amazed me how they made their budget work, and in general how resourceful they are. Sometimes they’d run out of the basics like toilet roll, it really does make you appreciate what you have.
The companions are generally younger and there is pretty much an even mix of females and males. This is because they have a huge problem with homelessness amongst all young people. Lots of them have been in care and have been abused in some kind of way. It is sad because before they come into the community they have no concept of time, their time is the season and they are often frightened of adults.
Visiting Emmaus Romania really opened up by eyes to what I’ve got, thanks to the help of Emmaus Cambridge, and how you can assist others. You feel powerful as an individual and a community when you help others to achieve their goals. From going from not having a purpose and not feeling great to being in a position to help others makes you feel happy. Solidarity is the most important work we do here and I’ve learnt that more often than not it’s the small things that we do for others that really make a difference. Like a companion I met in Romania couldn’t find any shoes to fit him and his were falling apart, so I sent him a pair from Emmaus Cambridge.
I’ve never felt more powerful, useful and important in my whole life than I have been here at Emmaus Cambridge and solidarity work brings that out in you.