Emmanuel and Annick from the Focolare Movement dedicate their free time to the French Red Cross. Since the beginning of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus, operations have been launched throughout France to support people in need. This married couple has helped in two of them.

The first operation  consisted in organising the delivery of medicines or food to people who were unable to do their own shopping. Emmanuel, an engineer at the University of Strasbourg,  worked almost full time as a volunteer coordinating the operation for the entire Bas-Rhin province (area around the city of Strasbourg). “Organising the teams and facilitating the flow of information,” he says, “was an immense logistical job. Even if sometimes I couldn’t get out of the house for three days, I didn’t feel alone. On the contrary I was  rather frustrated given that I was  working hard without hardly ever seeing the beneficiaries of my work”.

During that period, demand rocketed, especially for food. In fact, many social welfare associations had to close because most of their volunteers were forced to stay at home because of their age.

The other operation was launched from  April 29th  to  July 31st  2020 by the European Parliament in Strasbourg. It decided  to reopen its kitchens to prepare 500 meals a day. The Prefecture was responsible for finding the beneficiaries of the meals at a local level and the French Red Cross for the delivery. Annick, who continued her work as a nurse also  volunteered.  She says: “We saw people were happy to receive something. Although some were surprised and incredulous – imagining the background checking that was done  – people were anxious to have  those meals”.

“The institutions  invested enormously at the heart of the crisis,” Emmanuel notes.

What does this commitment mean for Emmanuel and Annick? “I  am nourished by  the spirituality of the Focolare Movement, but  our life is lived out  in society, it is in  giving (and giving of ourselves) concretely in the world,” answers Annick.

Emmanuel adds: “It is important not to remain in our corner, among Focolare people, but to act in the world. In addition, the seven principles of the Red Cross which are humanity, unity, universality, neutrality, independence, impartiality and voluntary service are very much in harmony with the “art of loving” and  “The Golden Rule”.

“The crisis was a time of great tension and the quality of human relations between volunteers and beneficiaries in the field and in the organisation has been important. For example, I mediated between the volunteers when tensions arose. The Focolare’s charism of unity has been of great help to me in understanding situations, losing my idea, living the present moment well”, Emmanuel shares.

“This crisis has brought out the good or  the bad in us,” Annick notes. Her husband is pleased to see that it has generated new ideas for action, particularly in relation to the digital divide or relational poverty. “The great lesson of the pandemic for many is the awareness that we cannot live without each other,” she says. ” Interdependence was Chiara Lubich’s great battle at the end of her life … My optimism leads me to believe that more people will be involved in associations and develop their sense of volunteering”.

Émilie Tévané

Source: Nouvelle Cité, N°604, July-August 2020, p. 41.


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