This event was organised in line with the Emmaus Americas region’s work plan, which prioritises the need to reinstate spaces for exchange and training in which leaders of the various Emmaus groups, all of whom work in different contexts, can jointly reflect on topics such as the environment, gender, the solidarity economy, poverty, public participation, etc., and can formulate a political message that reaches beyond the groups’ daily action in their respective contexts.
Aim of the meeting:
•Continue strengthening the group leaders’ management skills
•To promote good practice amongst leaders in their collective work, thus helping the groups in their efforts to become economically self-sufficient, to ensure that their activities are sustainable and to include their members.
•Ensure that this work is reflected in our presence as social stakeholders committed to the most urgent social struggles together with those most in need.
• The leaders’ meeting took place in Montevideo, Uruguay.
• The meeting started in the afternoon of 28 August 2017, with an overview of the aims of bringing the participating leaders together. The day was concluded with a heartfelt tribute to our companion and friend Jorge Ambiado (who played a crucial role in setting up the meeting).
• On 29 August, a day dedicated to political campaigning, we took part in an urban action at Montevideo’s town hall, with an art exhibition entitled “Making the invisible visible: Can you see me or not?” The event sought to shed light on issues that society turns a blind eye to, such as poverty, migrants, mental illness, addiction, etc. The exhibition was left in place in the hall for the entire week and was seen by thousands of people.
• On 30 August we spoke about the topic transforming ourselves, to transform the world. We had a presentation about social media and the Emmaus groups followed by a discussion about the liberating potential of popular education and finally a debate in groups and in the plenary. In the afternoon, we worked on the topic of how to bring about change based on our own action as a group. We finished the day with a workshop and plenary session on the topic.
• On 31 August, we dedicated a day to the topic of looking after ourselves and others to improve our work. In the morning, a presentation was given about safety in our work before we discussed the topic in workshops and a plenary session. In the afternoon we tackled the environmental crisis that has hit the continent and planet through a presentation given by experts. We discussed the topic further in a workshop and plenary session.
• On 1 September we had workshops in which we discussed the meaning of being a leader in Emmaus with the help of a former Emmaus activist and professional in the field. In the afternoon, the team from Emmaus International gave a presentation about the three struggles that the Emmaus movement is engaged in at the global level and the international solidarity criteria. We rounded off the day with a session to share stories about Father Atanasio Sierra and Abbé Pierre.
• On 2 September we asked the participants for their opinion about the meeting. The groups present were asked to write a report about their experience of attending the meeting, to send a copy to the Emmaus Americas secretariat and to tell their groups about the meeting.
• All of the participants then visited the educational project run by the sustainable Jaureguiberry school, located on the outskirts of Montevideo.
• The meeting was organised with the help of the Americas region training group, the regional secretariat, the education committee and companions who drew on their knowledge and experiences of previous meetings to contribute to the planning and running of the meeting.
• The meeting was attended by 51 companions and leaders from 29 Emmaus groups in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. The leaders from the groups in Bolivia did not attend.
• The idea is for everyone to be involved in planning, running and following up on such events and for it to feed into our work and thinking.
• The movement’s international solidarity work was an integral part of this action, because part of the funding for the meeting came from a collective project and thus, in a way, all of Emmaus’s members were involved in the action.
Various companions who have been involved in the Emmaus movement in Uruguay but who now work with other organisations took part in the meeting.
Other partners included the University of the Republic, the Montevideo town hall, SUNCA (the construction workers’ union), MIDES (the Ministry of Social Development) and CAIF (the alliance of infant and family care centres).
1) The meeting took place in line with the schedule of the Americas region
2) The Federation of Emmaus Uruguay applied for Uruguay to host the event
3) The regional board approved the plan when it met in March 2017
4) The proposals for workshops and topics of the meeting were examined
5) The various accommodation options were analysed
6) The presenters were contacted and interviewed
7) The agenda for each day was planned.
To keep up the momentum in our ongoing efforts to prepare and train the members of Emmaus groups from each country in accordance with their needs and the training guidelines defined by the region.
To be given the chance to share these experiences with the rest of the movement.
To draft a short publication which outlines the process and its outcome.
• We believe that the regional training team’s proposed aims and approaches for the meeting have been met and carried out.
• The participants actively engaged in the proposed approaches despite the different ways in which the various countries and groups view the world.
• It was a positive meeting at which leaders shared knowledge and former leaders contributed their experience to the discussions.
The meeting undoubtedly had a wider impact, because each companion who attended told their group about the experience upon their return and sent out a report about the discussions. Equally, there were also opportunities to talk about the meeting at meetings of Emmaus International’s bodies (the Emmaus Africa meeting as well as board and executive committee meetings, etc.).
To a certain extent, the meeting is linked to all three of the Emmaus struggles; this is why an artistic exhibition was put on at the beginning – it portrayed the consequences of the injustices that we see in the world and in our region in particular, with the aim of shedding light on them and enabling us to combat their causes.
Moreover, the struggle for social and environmental justice to build a sustainable world was constantly featured in our analysis as we tackled the topics of the meeting.
We believe that these meetings are essential to keeping the spirit of the movement alive in a complex and constantly changing world.
Knowledge sharing amongst companions from all over the region and other parts of the world, be it about ways of managing second-hand shops (the source of nearly all of our groups’ incomes) or social campaigning in the community, helps keep the movement on track, despite the differing visions of its members.
There was not enough time to discuss certain topics.
We believe that issuing a publication on the experience would enable us to both talk about the action and use it as a basis for future reflection processes.