Me and Gary left here at 11 o’clock on the Saturday night and flew out from Manchester at 6am to Bergamo in Italy. When we got there, it wasn’t very well signposted, and they were checking passports, so we ended up missing our connecting flight to Romania by 10 minutes. It was another 9 hours until the next flight, so we got to Romania at 1am on the Monday morning.

When we arrived, we got a taxi to a hotel for the night before travelling to the Unirea Hotel for the rest of the week. I was on the twelfth floor so I had a panoramic view of the city – it was great! I was quite shocked by Romania to be fair. When we first landed, it looked a bit like Bosnia but as we got further into the city, it was beautiful. It was a very peaceful city, not really as bustling as Manchester, and people were very welcoming.

At the Assembly, we did the workshops and they were quite interesting. The one I was mainly interested in was a workshop about solidarity and work camps, because I had a few friends from Bosnia there as well. Another workshop was all about working towards net zero and reducing waste, and that was very interesting. In addition to the workshops, there were a lot of talks in the main room – they were a bit draining at times but I managed to stay awake for them.

Visits, tours and learning

We went on a rural tour to visit two Emmaus communities. I was quite surprised at how self-sufficient they are. One had about 20 hectares of land and only two live-in companions. They farmed the land and supported other people too. The other community had about seven or eight companions, a tiny shop, animals and a little farm. Their shop was selling many of the items you’d find in our shop and it was quite a surprise really. The companions were very welcoming and proud to show us their community.

We visited another Emmaus community in the city of Iasi and that was founded in 2002. The building was in ruins at the time but over the years they refurbished it and now it’s shared accommodation, home to a mix of people including families. On one night we had a cultural tour of the city, seeing the palace and a lot of churches. The nightlife was just so calm and relaxing, and I felt very safe there.

Taking part in the Emmaus Europe Regional Assembly and visiting Romania for the first time was a great experience. I enjoyed it all, meeting with different companions from across Europe – 260 attendees from 17 countries. The main thing I’ve brought back to share with people at Emmaus Mossley is the need to work towards net zero targets. Hearing how other Emmaus groups have managed to reduce their impact on the environment was inspiring and useful.

I came away from the Assembly thinking that Emmaus groups in Europe are more activists and would like us in the UK to be more the same. I think we should to be fair. I know some people say we’re not a humanitarian charity, but when you look at what they do in Bosnia and other places, we definitely are.