The thing about Emmaus that appeals to me most is the self-sufficiency of it all. OK, communities have staff to support them, but most of what companions seem to gain from being in a community comes from each other. They can talk to each other and relate to past or present problems. On top of that, the community environment prompts respect for the people they are living and working with, as it is obvious that everyone has a part to play.
Of course this is not always the case, and for some, the settling in process can take a bit longer. There are glitches and upsets and part of my job is to talk to people and offer encouragement and understanding. This runs alongside the practical side of things like making appointments or making sure the guys have new socks or enough toiletries.
I think being the mum of six boys also helped me settle in at Emmaus, where most of the companions are men. I think I mother them a little, but everyone knows not to cross the line.
My background is in education, so I think this has helped, particularly as for the last few years I have run my own consultancy, linking teenagers with appropriate work experience. I also work with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and outward bound-type courses for youngsters, so I do a lot which involves getting kids to stand on their own two feet, and make their voices heard in team decisions.
Getting to the stage where you are able to do this can be hard, and some of the people who find their way to Emmaus benefit in the same way from the support of a large group. It’s nice to see them gain a sense of purpose and belonging.
In the past, my faith has taken me overseas to do volunteering work and it was on one of these trips, in the Philippines, that I met Clare, and we became friends.
She told me about Emmaus, once she started working here, and I applied to stand in as her deputy when she went on maternity leave. Now she is back I am continuing to support her, one day a week, or more if she needs it. Emmaus has a place in my heart now. I worry about the companions if I don’t see them, or if I come back after a while and someone has left. I think that once you become involved with Emmaus, you can’t help but stick with it.