Monday, 27 May 2013

18. The Duchess of Cornwall visits two Emmaus communities in Paris on her first solo trip overseas. Abbé Pierre. Selwyn Image. David and Robbie are in Shropshire.

with Mary Rigg from Hastings, Rob Daines from Coventry, 
and Scott Alvey from Cambridge (right),
 residents from Emmaus communities in the UK. 

27 May 2013. The royal Patron of Emmaus since 2006, the Duchess of Cornwall, travelled on Eurostar to Paris with three Emmaus UK Companions to find out more about the origins of the charity, the recent developments in social enterprise, and to see what lessons Emmaus UK and its French counterpart can learn from each other.

The Duchess of Cornwall visits an Emmaus shop in Bougival
Her Royal Highness is visiting Paris primarily on behalf of her charity Emmaus UK, which has its roots in France (Emmaus was founded in Paris in 1949). Prince Charles is paying for the trip out of his income from the Duchy of Cornwall estate.

 The Duchessl was greeted in Paris 
by companions and staff at Emmaus Bougival, 
where she also gave a speech

The Duchess with staff and companions
from Emmaus Chatou

She visited  Emmaus communities in Bougival and Chatou as part of her first solo overseas visit. She confessed her French was 'un peu rouillé' (rusty) but managed a speech rather well. Bougival was the sixth Emmaus community to be set up in France and now provides a home and work for 100 companions.

It was the Duchess’s idea to take Companions with her from the UK Emmaus communities to visit Emmaus in France, where the charity has a much higher profile. Emmaus is the largest charity in France, with 115  communities. 

Emmaus is a secular movement in 36 countries, with 24 communities in the UK. Each community aims to become self-supporting, with any surplus donated to others in need. The charity gives former homeless people - Companions - a home within one of the Emmaus communities, as well as work in one of its social enterprises, to help them get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.

There are a range of different Emmaus social enterprises, although most focus on recycled furniture and household goods. There are also Emmaus cafes, gardening projects and clothing shops. Many Emmaus communities also "upcycle" old furniture - repainting and reupholstering it to give it a new lease of life.

Solidarity is a key part of Emmaus culture: Companions give their support to others who are less fortunate than themselves. Acts of solidarity vary from raising money for a charity to sending donations to other Emmaus communities in countries around the world where poverty means it is a struggle to get donations to support their social enterprise.

Abbé Pierre
The first Emmaus Community was founded in Paris in 1949 by  a priest, Father Henri-Antoine Groues, in response to the problem of homelessness after the Second World War. Father Groues became known as Abbé Pierre, his pseudonym in the French Resistance. He was also an MP.
Selwyn Image, Albert Medal RSA
Emmaus UK

The first UK Community was started up in 1992 by Selwyn Image in Cambridge, after the large increase of homeless people following changes in Housing Benefit.

A further 23 Communities have since opened up in the UK and more are being planned, Cornwall among them. Emmaus UK now provides 580 formerly homeless people with accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance, but for many, the greatest benefit is a fresh start.

Despite being one of the most recent countries to join the Emmaus movement, rapid growth in the UK means it is second only to France in size and scale.

The Duchess of Cornwall at Emmaus Winchester,
with companions, staff and Emmaus UK President Terry Waite,
December 2012
Emmaus Oxford

Robbie Brough and David Sansom, both 19,  are currently raising money for Emmaus Oxford in their gap year prior to going to university (Robbie) and Sandhurst (David) by walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats. They left Shrewsbury today to follow the Shropshire Way from  Wem and Whitchurch.en route to their final destination.

They have raised a total of £4,440.00 so far, and aim to raise £25,000.

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