As a newish companion to Preston Emmaus, I was surprised, but happy, to have been offered a spot in our group heading down to Swanwick for the assembly. I had no idea what to expect, other than I was being press-ganged into playing in the five-a-side football, and that there was a darts tournament that I was planning on winning! Beyond that, although I had a basic itinerary it was a bit of a mystery, the only thing I had been told was there would be workshops to attend, and some fascinating keynote speakers to listen to.
Seven of us, five companions/RCs, our assistant community leader and our director turned up at 1pm Friday afternoon, just in time to grab a cup of tea, warm up and hit the football pitch. For a bunch of lads who have never played together beyond a quick kickabout onh the part, I’d say we did ourselves proud, finishing third overall and ending the tournament undefeated thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Craig, who quite literally took one for the team. Hope it gets better soon Craigles!
After the football, unpacking and a meal it was time for the introductory speeches and our itenerary to be made clear, this was a real eye-opener, seeing over three hundred people in one room, working together, in one mind with one goal. How can we take Emmaus as a whole forward, and all play our part. This truly did make me see what I am a prt of, and I really felt honoured to be here. This was followed by two minute (alledgedly!) speeches from each community, chatting about what we’ve done, what we’re going to do, and where we’re going. I was taken by complete surprise by some of the incredible things some of the communities have achieved, and humbled by the work and effort some amazing people have done to make this movement work. When it came to our turn, three of us each had a part to play, and although my part seemed to go all right, I was absolutely terrified, and glad once it was over and I could sit down and enjoy the rest. And then the reason I came here…bring on the Darts!
Unfortunately my confidence didn’t quite match my ability. Although I breezed through qualifying, I came up against the defending champion in the quarter finals. Ouch! Congrats Bev, and I sincerely hope never to play you again! After this, the Preston boys sat around with a drink, discussed our first impression, and away to our fantastic rooms. Double bed, broadband, en suite, and very, very comfortable, I had the best night’s sleep I had in ages…in no small part due to being exhausted from football.
Next morning we arose, most of us carrying minor injuries, ready for a long and productive day. The speeches and discussions in the morning, particularly listening to Arvinda and the aspiring community groups, were absolutely inspirational. It really made me think more about my role in Emmaus, and what I can do to do more, and to play a bigger part in moving Emmaus Preston, and Emmaus as a whole, forward. Listening to Jenny Edwards talk about homelessness, a subject close to my heart as I’ve been on the streets three times, was a real eye-opener, and I was honoured to get the chance to ask a question of her and to get a great, well considered answer.
After the speeches and discussions came lunch, and if I have one gripe about this wekend, it’s the food. I’m lactose intolerant, and twice the staff forgot and I had to go off the premises and pay for food from my own pocket. A minor gripe, and one I’m used to, but it did stand out as the only part of this weekend that wasn’t absolutely fantastic.
On Saturday afternoon came the workshops. I couldn’t comment on all of them, as I chose to attend one about ebay and online selling, something I’m very very passionate about bringing to Emmaus Preston, and one about improving customer service and experience, as I work in the shop in Preston and am always looking for ways to improve myself there. Great workshops, fascinating speakers, and a lot of information for me to take back which I think will be a huge boon to our shop. After the speeches came free time and optional workshops, such as the drumming, which I listened to with great enthusiasm and enjoyment until the noise made me remember just how tired I was, and that an early night might be in order. So, away I wandered, chatting to a couple of people from Emmaus Leeds and Hampshire about everythying from shop work to World of Warcraft (Hi Seam, see you on the battlefield!)
And now I’m sitting here, waiting for breakfast on Sunday, sore feet, a lot to take in, but having had a fantastic time, and looking forward to seeing the last part of the weekend today, speeches from Md Aminul Haque, the final part of “How to get involved in the Emmaus International Movement”a closing address from Terry Waite, and of course the awarding of the trophies, awards and so on.
It’s been an amazing weekend, I’m honoured to have been part of it, and hopefully I’ll be back next year to see more, learn more and win that darts tournament! I’ve met some fantastic people, been made to feel welcome, and been inspired by so many people’s stories, community life, and the sheer enjoyment and passion people feel about this great movement. See you all next year.
Andi, Emmaus Preston Companion.