Our history is connected to the Sisters of All Hallows. The initial development phase of our community took a couple of years of dedicated volunteer fundraising and planning. The Sisters of All Hallows kindly offered our community a long-term base and premises set in several acres in the tranquil convent grounds and Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney first opened its doors to companions in 2011.
The buildings have great character and are deeply embedded in local heritage. The first job for companions was to decorate and refurbish the smaller former junior school and artist colony to provide initial living accommodation and retail space for the community.
On 3rd March 2012, an event was held at Norwich Cathedral, where Emmaus UK President Terry Waite and local writer Louis de Bernieres spoke to an audience of potential supporters to raise the profile of our organisation in Norfolk and encourage involvement. Soon after our shop opened for business.
Over time, we refurbished Holy Cross House, which is the residential area of our site, upgraded Abbe Pierre House, which houses our second hand retail outlet, and opened The Old Orchard Cafe, which serves light refreshments.
We will soon be increasing the number of people we can support at one time to 32. We offer the opportunity for them to rebuild their lives through work in our social enterprises and community, within a supportive environment. We aim to create a self-sustaining community through our trading activities and grow the opportunities available for people who would otherwise be homeless.
This year, we will also be opening a new shop in Norwich city centre.
The first Emmaus community was founded in Paris, in 1949, by Father Henri-Antoine Grouès, better known as Abbé Pierre. He was an MP, Catholic priest and former member of the French Resistance who fought to provide homes for those who lived on the streets of Paris.
Emmaus had been established in France for 40 years before it came to the UK in the early 1990s, all thanks to a chance encounter at a Cambridge soup kitchen.
Emmaus is part of an international movement made up of 350 groups in 37 countries, governed by Emmaus International, which was set up in 1971.
Emmaus International has five priority areas: