Tuesday 2 December 2014

I'm a Celebrity contestants really don't have it so bad

Colchester Terry Waite with companion Jackie xxx 140522

By Terry Waite, President of Emmaus UK

Many years ago I was approached with a view to appearing on the programme, 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here'. I wasn't tempted by the offer of a large fee and so declined.  However, I am curious and recently have been tuning into the programme to see how the participants are getting along. 

I have no doubt they find it uncomfortable at times, but in reality it's not all that bad. Rice and beans is not too hard to bear for a couple of weeks. That was my main diet in captivity for almost five years and I survived. But what about people who are living on the streets at this time of year?  Many, if not all of them, at some time in their lives would have been happy to have a hammock to sleep in and regular food no matter how meagre.  Also, the celebs are warm.

I have been president of Emmaus ever since it started in the UK over twenty years ago and in that time have seen so many people come to us, having spent months and sometimes years living on the streets, feeling understandably dejected and downcast. 

But then I see them take the opportunities we offer at Emmaus.  The opportunity to work according to their capacity. The opportunity to deal with problems that are damaging their health. The opportunity to serve their community.  Not just their Emmaus community, but the wider community in which they live.

It's really terrible to be homeless and have to suffer night after night under the arches, or in a hostel where one is surrounded by threats of every kind, most of them far worse than the trials endured by these well-paid participants. It was interesting to see in a recent episode how emotional the celebrities became when they received a parcel from home with messages from their families.  Some of them were in tears and they had only been parted for a matter of weeks, if that! 

Imagine how people living on the streets feel when Christmas comes round and people across the country are getting together. They may well have lost all contact with their family for a variety of reasons and thoughts of the past come flooding back. Christmas can be a very hard time indeed for many homeless people. It could make that jungle look like a paradise.

Of course, there is no big fee, gold star or public recognition for suffering the trials of homelessness. However, in Emmaus we recognise that all men and women should be afforded dignity as human beings and be helped to regain the self-esteem which, in some cases, has been lost though many misfortunes in life.

When all is said and done, ‘I’m a celebrity’ is designed as entertainment and we can't take it too seriously. However we look at it though, homelessness is not entertaining. It's a grim reality but Emmaus has enabled hundreds of people to get out of a real jungle and gain stability in their lives.

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