The bar Solid’Em, located in the community’s sales area, was created in June 2011 to raise awareness amongst the general public and to bring in extra funds for the water access and sanitation project at Lake Nokoué in Benin. The community has been committed to the Lake Nokoué project since its launch in 2007.
All profits from the bar were sent to Emmaus International to fund the Lake Nokoué project. The construction phase ended in 2016 but the project continues with the local association of the inhabitants of the lake which manages the infrastructure and raises awareness about hygiene, water management and sanitation.
The bar is often open for 4 half-days per month but the bar is also opened occasionally for events and major sales.
Over time the bar has become a place of exchange where the regulars come to relax. It’s an ideal place for us to organise lobbying events. We have organised the following in the bar:
- events for World Water Day,
- a special event about Calais and Dunkirk with a replica of one of the shacks in the ‘Jungle’ camp designed after members of the community (both companions and volunteers) had been to help in the camp
- events run alongside local associations that work with migrants
A committee of 10 people (5 volunteers, 2 companions, 1 staff member, 1 community leader and the Director of clothing and reintegration companies for Emmaus) meet regularly to discuss solidarity initiatives including the support for the Nokoué programme (which ended in 2016), support for groups who are experiencing difficulties and aid for migrants. This committee is also in charge of the Solid’Em bar.
It is difficult to regularly free up companions to open the bar as they have a lot of other work on their plates. They do attend all special events however.
In our work to raise awareness about the situations migrants are faced with we asked for support from two local associations who work with migrants.
When we launched Solid’Em we got in touch with other Emmaus communities nearby and we were able to solve many issues: where to run the bar, how to maintain the bar, how to find volunteers to help with the bar, setting up a schedule for when the bar will be open, etc.
We are currently setting up a schedule for upcoming events.
In the pipeline: an event to mark the 10-year anniversary of the death of Abbé Pierre, an event dedicated to article 13 and the crossing of Gibraltar in September 2017 (2 members of the community will be joining in the crossing).
Solid’Em has become an essential part of community life in the space of 5 years and the bar deserves to be opened more often.
The customers themselves have asked us to open the bar more often.
Some of our events were covered by the local press (Le Dauphiné Libéré) such as those organised for World Water Day and the events for the migrants in Calais and Grand Synthe (with the replica shack).
We are looking for volunteers so that we can open Solid’Em more often.