“We want to increase our visibility in the region”
Sjoerd Rammelt is coordinator at Emmaus Feniks in Tegelen and in an interview with euregio campus he talks about Emmaus Feniks’ future plans.
Emmaus is a movement that originated in Paris during the Second World War and is now active in 41 countries. The movement’s goal is to give people opportunities to make their lives worthwhile and to help them get back on their feet again after a difficult situation. Another of Emmaus’ aims is to contribute to the environment by sorting and reusing discarded products as much as possible. Finally, Emmaus wants to give people with a small budget the opportunity to buy clothes and goods for little money.
What does Emmaus Feniks do?
Our main task is to take care of people who have lost their homes in one way or another and have ended up on the streets. We have a residential group where people can live for a few months to a maximum of three years. The residents participate in the work group in our thrift shop. In exchange, they receive shelter, food and a small allowance. We guide these people in building up a new life. If the problems are too big, we refer them to Moveo or, if it concerns addiction problems, to the Salvation Army. Residents who stay here longer are given more and more responsibilities. At a certain point, we jointly determine how someone wants to proceed and where they want to move on to. That may be social housing, for example, or another Emmaus group somewhere else. In addition, we have now taken over the homeless shelter for the municipality of Venlo, because of the winter arrangement. Those people come in the evening around six o’clock. They then get something to eat and have the opportunity to shower. The next morning, they leave at 09.00 at the latest.
Emmaus Feniks is in the middle of an important transition period. What are the next steps?
The monastery in which we are housed is almost sold and we will be able to stay on as a tenant. We will then no longer have to take care of the entire area, as we will only be using 30% of the monastery. It is possible that care flats will be built in the monastery and there will be many new other initiatives. For example, there are plans for a brewery and an oyster mushroom grower. Through these kinds of new partnerships, we will soon be able to promote this place successfully.
Do you also work with volunteers?
We have 30 to 40 active volunteers. A large part of them is involved in growing vegetables in the monastery garden. We also have people who have to work a certain number of hours as part of their probation. Sometimes there are conflicts between the various groups working with us. In general, these are insightful frictions that often lead to something valuable.
Because of Corona, many thrift shops are offered too many items. Does this also affect Emmaus Feniks?
We do have to be stricter in which items we accept and only choose the gems. Many people see us as an alternative to the recycling centre, but we cannot keep people off the streets by selling waste. We need to achieve a positive balance at the end of the year, and that is sometimes forgotten.
Reusing things has become a trend. Do you see a change in your clientele?
I don’t dare say so because I have only been working here for a year. We have a large group of customers who see Emmaus as a social circle and visit us weekly. They are mainly older people; students don’t find us often yet. I don’t think we’re really jumping on this trend at the moment, but I hope we’ll benefit from it in the future. It can also contribute to the cradle-to-cradle vision of the municipality of Venlo if recycled items play a more important role. At Emmaus Feniks, we definitely want to contribute to that.
What is the significance of German customers for Emmaus Feniks?
Our German customers mean a lot to us. We regularly go across the border to collect items, so the German clientele is also very important for the supply of goods. Many of the German customers who visit us to deliver items also visit our care restaurant. In the future, we would like to pay more attention to the German market. It would also be interesting to get in touch with German institutions.
In the future, you want to work together with students of the Crosslab at Fontys Venlo. What is the purpose of this collaboration?
Together with a group of international students from the Crosslab Fontys Venlo, we want to see how we can increase the visibility and brand awareness of Emmaus Feniks in the region. In the Venlo region I regularly meet people who have not yet heard of us. In the past, Emmaus Feniks was very focused inwards, on its own community. Now we focus much more outwards. We are happy that the Fontys students are going to support us in this phase by setting up a marketing plan. Another challenge is our German customers. 50% of our customers are from Germany, but we don’t really know where they heard about us or how they find us. We would like to learn more about that and we have asked the Fontys students to advise us, by means of a customer survey, how we can reach German guests even better, for example with social media advertisements.