At the beginning of April, a four person team from Emmaus Lambeth went to Romania to visit Emmaus Iasi. In September last year, Emmaus Iasi had been our nominated international beneficiary for our major solidarity event of 2018, the 24 hour Spinathon. We did not just want to transfer to them their 50% share of the funds raised, we wanted to visit their community and gain an understanding of their work and the challenges that they face. The visiting team consisted of Andy, Ian, Sara and Jess. It was a trip full of cultural exchanges and everlasting memories, especially for Ian, who was experiencing his first flight and his first time abroad.

Members from the Emmaus Iasi community were very generous with their time and were the perfect hosts, as all of the Lambeth team felt very much welcomed into their Emmaus family. The group had a meeting with Gelu, who is the manager of Emmaus in Romania, and he provided an insight into how Emmaus Iasi started. Back in 2000, Gelu had come over from France, and had been handing out meals and other essential items to people sleeping on the streets. With his knowledge of Emmaus from France, it inspired him to start up an Emmaus community in Iasi. The community in Iasi has 15 Companions where they work in a large shop, with furniture, bric-a-brac, clothes etc. They also repair and make furniture, as well as selling the donated items. As with other communities within the Emmaus movement, solidarity is a key ethos, so they also do “maraude” (outreach) where they cook and distribute around 100-150 meals per day to people living on the streets of Iasi. In addition, the staff and Companions from Iasi visit an orphanage 60km out of the city, and take food and toiletries to support them.

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A new project has been introduced by Emmaus Iasi, where they have a 20 hectare field in Belvedere. They have begun plans to build 3 houses as move-on accommodation for Companions, plus a huge warehouse to sell farm produce that will be grown on the land. They also plan to have an educational centre here where groups and schools can come and be taught agricultural skills. This is primarily where the funds raised by Emmaus Lambeth will be utilised. 

On the last day of their trip, Radu from the community took the group sightseeing to see the history of Iasi. The group also visited the two Emmaus communities where they are located in Iasi and Popesti. Popesti is 30km out of the city where they have their farm community; they have goats, horses, dogs, rabbits, chickens, geese on the land and the Companions work to look after them all.

We asked Ian from the group for his overall view of the trip:

“This was my first trip abroad, and I am so glad that I signed up to do it. The people were so welcoming, plus we had the contrasting experience of a modern university city like Iasi with our excursions into the more deprived rural areas. It just gives you a different perspective from London. Having seen the vision for their new project in Belvedere, I would love to return and see it when it is all up and running.”

For Andy, the experience was also very positive:

“Having been part of the Solidarity Spinathon event last year, it was really good to come out to Romania and see how the funds raised from that will make such a difference for Emmaus Iasi. The Belvedere project looks very exciting, and like Ian I would love to see it when it becomes a fully developed reality.”

Emmaus Lambeth would like to thank Emmaus Iasi for being so welcoming and for their generous hospitality during this trip.

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