I was initially quite nervous about volunteering at the Brighton & Hove community.
Would I have any relevant skills? Would I be seen as a patronising do-gooder by the Companions? And how much use could a few hours a week be, anyway?
Two years on, I can hardly imagine my life without the place. Even being there for just one morning a week, I feel like I’ve become part of a whole new community, getting to know most of the staff and many of the Companions by name, and feeling a part of their activities, plans and ambitions. I’ve discovered it’s not about having a specific skillset, it’s just about having the right attitude and turning up when you say you will. I’ve done everything from sweeping up in the café to constructing art installations, and have written loads of content for the new website. I now sit on the Fundraising Committee and attend all their events including the AGM.
But this is nothing compared to what Emmaus has given me. It’s a little haven each week, somewhere you’re always guaranteed a smile and a warm welcome, and a reminder that there’s more to life than the stresses and obsessions of your own little world. Among the Companions, I’ve got to know some of the brightest, most creative people I’ve ever met - and that’s after working for 30 years in a creative industry. I’ve learned a load of new skills, from using a belt sander, to decoupage and vertical planting (albeit with varying results.) And I’ve had confirmed what I always believed – that homelessness isn’t something that just happens to the addicted or the feckless. It can happen to any of us, and in most cases the only difference between myself and the Companion I’m sat next to at lunch is the hand we were dealt.
Emmaus isn’t a perfect organisation, but it does fantastic work and this city would be a lot worse off without it. I’m very proud to be a little part of it.