Marie-Madeleine Cinquin was born 16 November 1908 in Brussels, Belgium. Aged 6, she saw her father drown and believed that her vocation was linked to this accident. She decided to devote herself to children and completed philosophical and religious studies, then entered the Order of Our Lady of Sion in 1929, and took her vows in 1930.
From 1931 to 1963 she taught literature and philosophy in Istanbul and Tunis, but kept the desire to serve the poor.
In 1963 she obtained a degree at Paris Sorbonne University and was sent to teach in Egypt in Alexandria. In 1971, she retired from teaching and was allowed to help the poor: she went to the slums of Cairo to live among the garbage collectors. Her joy was to help the poorest of the poor. She initiated projects to improve the living conditions, health and education of the families who lived there.
Sœur Emmanuelle wrote a book about her fight and managed to receive donations, so that in 1980, she succeeded in building a school, kindergarten, a welfare centre and maternity hospital. She will keep on raising money throughout the world thanks to her endless touring efforts.
She then moved to an even bigger slum in Cairo, and managed to build a school, kindergarten, houses and to get access to water and electicity. She launched actions in another Cairo slum and in Karthoum in Sudan. She created the association "The friends Sœur Emmanuelle" then ASMAE, which merged in 1987. In the 1980s she started helping poor people in Lebanon, the Philippines, Burkina Faso... She was granted the Egyptian nationality to thank her for her achievements.
In 1993 she was called back to France by her order for a retirement that she passed helping the homeless in the Riviera, initiating programs in Paris suburbs... She wrote several books including "Heaven is the Others". She said: "If you want to live, you must love!". Even in her 90s, she kept helping others whenever she could! In her own words: "Yalla Emmanuelle, move, stand up, go and meet the others, as your Pope: rest is for eternity.".
Her action via ASMAE covers 8 countries and helps 50,000 to 60,000 children every year. Sœur Emmanuelle was among the best loved persons in France and Belgium. She left us on 20 October 2008, in Callian, just weeks before turning 100.