“Emmaus Brighton & Hove is such a special place.”
“I live in Brighton, where homelessness is quite prevalent, so I wanted to find a local organisation to volunteer for. I was actually looking for more hands-on opportunities, like helping out at one of the soup kitchens in town, but then I saw an ad for the trustee role at Emmaus Brighton & Hove.
For the past seven and a half years, I've worked for an organisation called Sightsavers. It’s an international charity, working to alleviate sight loss and promote disability inclusion across Africa and Asia. I started out there as Social Media Manager and now I'm responsible for sourcing stories and news for our projects. I really love international development work, but I also wanted to get involved with an organisation that's a little closer to home.
Emmaus Brighton & Hove needed someone with communications and fundraising experience, which I have, and I'd been there quite a few times as a customer. I just absolutely love what they do. I upcycle furniture, so I'm always in the Secondhand Superstore looking for bargains. It wasn’t until I read the signage there that I found out all the shops are staffed by people that live in the Emmaus Brighton & Hove community, people that have experienced homelessness themselves. I thought it was a really great ethos, giving people the chance to work, learn new skills and help themselves out of homelessness. When I saw the ad for the trustee role, I felt it was a brilliant opportunity and got really excited, so I applied.
I had never been a trustee before, so I didn't know exactly what the role entailed, but the other trustees explained everything to me. They talked me through their strategy for the next few years and mentioned that communications and fundraising was going to be a big focus, so I was just really pleased to get involved.
I started as a trustee in March 2020, so my introduction to the organisation was quite different. The shops closing was something that no-one would have wanted. I talked to some of the companions (people who live and work in our Emmaus community) and I know they miss having a familiar routine and structure.
When the shops reopened, I was amazed to see how well it had all been handled. It felt like a nice safe and secure place to be and didn’t lose too much of its magic. There’s often a queue outside the Superstore, as we have restrictions on the amount of people allowed in at one time, and one day I noticed one of the companions chatting to customers while they were waiting. Our customers don’t just come for the shopping, they come for the interactions they have with people, so in a way the new system has been a good opportunity for customers to get to know companions better and learn more about what we do.
The more time I spend at Emmaus Brighton & Hove, the more I love it. The Superstore is great for upcycling furniture and The Greenhouse is amazing – I've got plants all over my house now. The place that impressed me most was Outfit @Emmaus in the chapel. It's on par with any of the cool vintage stores around Brighton. You wouldn't know that it's a charity shop. It's a real destination. You walk in there and you feel like you're being transported back in time to when all the clothes were originally made.
Lately, I’ve been working on a communications strategy to increase awareness about Emmaus around Brighton and Hove. The one thing I'm finding difficult is not being able to visit the community as often as I’d like. I've been a few times and have had some nice chats with companions, but it's definitely something I want to do more of when the situation changes. As a board member, I'm involved in decisions that could affect their lives, so it's really important to be there and to get to know the companions. I'm still learning a lot, but my pearls of wisdom for anyone thinking about becoming a trustee for Emmaus would be to absorb as much as possible. Emmaus Brighton & Hove is such a special place. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”