The humanitarian and author Sir Terry Waite says “ordinary acts of kindness can have a profound impact” in a message released today, the 70th anniversary of the Emmaus Uprising of Kindness.

The historic Uprising of Kindness speech was delivered by Emmaus founder Abbé Pierre on February 1, 1954, as a call for solidarity in response to the homeless situation in France.

People were dying on the streets and Abbé Pierre’s appeal led to an unprecedented outpouring of public support which Sir Terry says is needed here in the UK.

Just as Emmaus founder Abbé Pierre did 70 years ago, Sir Terry opens his modern-day version with an urgent call to action, “My friends, your help is needed”.

Empathy for people experiencing homelessness

It was 37 years last since month since Sir Terry was kidnapped and held captive for almost five years in Beirut. He had spent 1,763 days in captivity after being kidnapped by terrorists while trying to negotiate the release of hostages and spent the first four years in solitary confinement.

He explains how the experience left him with an immense empathy for the plight of homeless people when he says in his message: “Like me, they know what it is like to feel trapped in a hopeless situation, not knowing when or how it will end. The isolation, the crushing despair, the inhumanity.”

Sir Terry became President of Emmaus soon after his release in 1991 and he goes on to say: “I have had the great privilege of meeting people who have turned their lives around with the charity’s help. They know ordinary acts of kindness can have a profound impact.

“A simple ‘how are you?’ is often all it takes for someone to feel cared for. I support Emmaus in their call for an Uprising of Kindness, just as the founder of the Emmaus international movement, Abbé Pierre, did 70 years ago…I urge everyone to be more kind to the homeless this year and beyond.”

‘Having someone to talk to makes all the difference’

Chris, a companion supported by Emmaus, says having someone to talk to makes all the difference.

He became homeless after his work dried up, just after the pandemic struck, and found himself living rough in central London, sleeping in doorways and then a park, until he met a group of people volunteering to help rough sleepers. One of the volunteers found him a place in a backpackers’ hostel for a month.

Keen to spread the kindness by supporting the volunteers work, Chris said: “I went into the hostel room, chucked my bags on the bed and then went back outside and asked if I could join them taking out food and drinks to homeless people on the streets. We got about 15 people off the streets that night.”

Supporting the Emmaus campaign to #BeMoreKind, Chris says: “I would encourage people to be more kind to homeless people by talking to them. Have a chat with them, offer them a coffee and basically just talk.

“Having someone to talk to makes all the difference. Sometimes you don’t speak to anybody for a week or more and you’re just sitting there in doorways with nothing to do, or just wandering around.”

Now living at Emmaus Hertfordshire, Chris still looks for ways to spread kindness to others. He recently took part in a sleepout to raise money for the community.

About the Uprising of Kindness

Sir Terry’s message is part of Emmaus’s Uprising of Kindness campaign, which calls on us all to #BeMoreKind and make a positive impact on people experiencing homelessness. February 1 is a national Day of Action, during which people from around Emmaus communities in the UK are taking part in acts of kindness and campaigning.

The day marks the 70th anniversary of a powerful call for solidarity from the founder of the Emmaus movement, Abbé Pierre. His appeal led to the Uprising of Kindness – an outpouring of support from members of the public for people who were sleeping rough on the streets of Paris.

You can get involved in the Emmaus Uprising of Kindness by pledging to #BeMoreKind and make a positive difference this year and beyond. Click here to join the campaign.