The association was founded in Finland in the late 1970’s, with the purpose of collecting material and monetary donations to be channeled to solidarity and aid work, and also for doing awareness-raising about the reasons behind the structural inequalities of the world. To mitigate sufferings, and to dismantle the structures perpetuating them.
Trajectory of activities
The association acquired an old farm as a location for activites, where was built both a residential and working community. Activities initially consisted of collecting aid materiel such as clothes and tools, fixing them up, and sending them to those most in need – to war refugee camps, and people living in extreme poverty. Coming into the 1980’s, stable income flows, partnerships, and continuous projects were running smoothly. The efforts were directed to the poor corners of South America in Chile and Nicaragua. Besides material aid, there was also economical projects and awareness-raising work. There was building of cooperative initiatives with indigenous groups, women, and other people stuck in the poverty trap, support of political prisoners, transatlantic visits in both directions, and shipping of besides clothes everything from bicycles to kitchen utensils. One of the association’s founding members was murdered while visiting the politically inflamed Chile.
At the same time, in Finland the association connected with the rising Green movement. The scope of activities broadened both locally and internationally. A subsection in another city was founded, new projects were initiated together with other actors such as the Estelle sailship project and the fair-trade “World Shops” movement. Internationally new destinations of support were liberation movements in Namibia and Angola, as well as Palestinian refugee camps.
Support took many forms, from hospital supplies to financing projects. In Finland there was awareness campaigning from marketsquares to mainstream- and alternative media, about the destinations of the aid efforts but also about campaigning against South African Apartheid and against nuclear power.
In the 1990’s, aid efforts broadened further, with new destinations in former Jugoslavia, Russia, Bolivia, Ghana, and Ethiopia. At home there was campaigning against Shell’s and other multinationals’ human rights violations, and participating in the finnish Peace movement. Material aid shippings were up into several ten thousand kilograms yearly. Also the government subsidized development aid projects.
Entering the new millenium, the governmental subsidies stopped, and many old campaigns were ended, and the traditional material aid began gradually diminishing and focusing on fewer targets. The war refugee camps born from Angola’s 30-year civil war became the main focus of activities. The Angola project was brought to conclusion through the Estelle project started in the 1980’s. Finally the freight ship renovated for decades left to travel to Angola and back.
There were also other destinations of material aid in e.g. Poland, Guinea, Ghana, Afghanistan, as well as homeless people in Helsinki. Activity not connected to material aid increased: support of political prisoners, literacy projects, work against human trafficking, working with sans-papiers migrants and with squatters. Anti-authoritarian and autonomous objectives gained more prominence as the principles informing new projects, however the themes of earlier decades still remained present: there was still occasional deliveries of financial aid to Palestine, and nuclear power was still opposed, while the misery sown by capitalism and consumer society got its share of criticism.
Nowadays ongoing projects are limited to support of homeless people and of organizations supporting political prisoners. The association is part of the international Emmaus movement (emmaus-europe.org and emmaus-international.org), but is wholly autonomous and independent from other Emmaus groups, and is not part of the network of finnish Emmaus groups. Through the international Emmaus networks, some financial support is directed to various solidarity projects.