The Emmaus family
by Terry Waite, President Emmaus UK
Although there are an increasing number of people in the United Kingdom who are experiencing hardship those who suffer total poverty are mercifully few.
However, there are those who simply have nothing and spend their lives living with friends, on the streets or floating from one homeless shelter to another. After a while, depression sets in and it is quite possible to lose all hope.
It requires real strength of will to overcome this situation and if you have suffered from a deprived childhood or have things in your past of which you are far from proud, then life can be tough indeed.
Many years ago in France, a remarkable priest, the Abbé Pierre, recognised that there were far too many people in Paris who had nothing in life. He was an unconventional clergyman, more concerned with the poor than with 'churchy' matters. It was he who founded Emmaus, a non-religious organisation designed to support the homeless of Paris.
Today, Emmaus has grown into an international organisation and, since it was founded in 1947, has been a friend to countless thousands of men and women across the globe. I have been associated with Emmaus in the UK since it was started here over 20 years ago and have seen it develop into one of the fastest growing parts of the international movement.
At Emmaus, we try very hard not to be an a movement that patronises people. Those who come into our communities are called companions and together they provide the backbone of each community. Working with them are community leaders, trustees and volunteer workers and we do our level best to work together as a family.
I always say to those who offer their support to Emmaus that whilst we need money to start new communities, that is not the first requirement. Some of our volunteers simply do not have the money to give away but they have time to give to helping a community near to where they live.
In my home in Suffolk there is a wonderful painting in oils done by a well-known Scottish artist. It pictures three companions from the Glasgow community. The artist gave his skill to help the movement just as many others have been able to share their unique skills, experience and understanding of life with the movement.
The news in the world today is far from cheerful - indeed it is depressing. Wars, floods, goodness knows what else. However, in Emmaus we keep before us the message of hope. We nourish that within ourselves and rekindle it in others.
If you are already a member of the Emmaus family then thank you for what you have given. If you would like to join us, then please get in touch. We need you.
May the coming year be good for you all.