Tuesday 22 December 2015

Terry's Christmas blog

Terry Waite

You may be aware that in the late 1980s, I was one of several people taken hostage in Beirut.

There were times when I felt so low that I thought the isolation would drive me into total despair and it was this experience that eventually led me to Emmaus. I understood the loneliness and sense of abandonment that people feel when they're homeless and, like you, I wanted to help. As this Christmas approaches and we make our plans to draw inside our homes and spend time with family and friends, let’s not forget those people who will be sleeping rough, squatting in derelict buildings or queuing for a hostel bed, feeling alone and without hope. No one should have to feel like this, especially at Christmas time.

With your support, we can bring more people into the warmth of an Emmaus community. One of our Emmaus companions in Greenwich, Malcolm, was homeless for many years and five of them he spent in a tent, camping alongside a canal. You can imagine how bitterly cold and damp that must have been through the winter months. What’s worse, no one knew Malcolm was there, least of all his family. He had become invisible, existing on the very margins of our society.

But last Christmas things were very different. When I called in to Emmaus Greenwich on Christmas Day, Malcolm was there, enjoying the festivities with new-found friends. Three days later, he was also able to celebrate his 61st birthday in the company of staff and fellow companions. And, better still, Malcolm is now back in touch with his sister. She was absolutely elated to hear his voice on the telephone after so many years and to know that he was safe, and happy to be living and working at Emmaus.

Thanks to your support, hundreds of formerly homeless people like Malcolm will find comfort and friendship in their community this Christmas. But Emmaus has been forced to turn away as many as 330 desperate men and women this year because there simply weren’t enough rooms available. They may still be facing another cold and lonely Christmas on the streets, so together we must do our utmost to help as many of them as we can.

As you may know, our communities in Hull, South Wales and Merseyside are all working hard to complete their community buildings before the end of the year. If we can all pull together now, I’m hopeful that all three may be ready to welcome some companions by Christmas, and even more in the new year. Twenty-five established Emmaus communities around the country will also be making full use of their accommodation to bring more homeless people in from the cold.

For those companions who’ve lost touch with their families, Christmas can be terribly difficult. However, at Emmaus they will enjoy a festive meal, exchange gifts and be in the company of people who care about them. Many Emmaus companions, volunteers and staff will also be spreading some Christmas cheer through acts of solidarity, such as providing meals for elderly people or helping out on soups runs for those who are still sleeping rough. So your Christmas gift will not only reach out to homeless people, but to those in wider society who are also isolated and vulnerable. 

It’s amazing to think that next year, Emmaus will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. I am enormously proud of what we’ve achieved together. To mark this special milestone, we’re asking our supporters, companions, volunteers, staff and trustees to share their memories and thoughts about Emmaus with us.

If you have a memory or message about Emmaus that you’d like to share, please sent it to media@emmaus.org.uk. We would love to hear for you.

As ever, I want to thank you for your kindness and compassion. Homelessness won’t end any time soon, so our work must continue. And it’s really good to know that Emmaus has good friends like you by its side. 

I hope you and your loved ones have a very Happy Christmas.

 

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