I’m Gintare – Development and Progression Manager at Emmaus Colchester. I have been involved with charities since I was ten years old. It all started when I volunteered at my local food bank in Lithuania. At the age of 19, I came to Colchester to study at Essex University, and I joined the University’s volunteer team, before becoming a volunteer at Colchester Emergency Night Shelter, cooking evening meals for the residents.
After completing my degree, I gained an internship at Signpost – a local charity that helps people to get back into employment. It provides career advice and guidance and works with its clients on a one-to-one basis, helping them overcome obstacles that they might be facing.
I joined Emmaus Colchester in 2012 and have since progressed into my current position as Development and Progression Manager. It’s a varied role which involves managing all aspects of the companions welfare and the support team.
A big part of my role is having one-to-one meetings with our companions to help them realise their aspirations, needs and wants in a person-centred way. I normally see each companion on a monthly basis, but this varies to suit the individual’s needs. Sometimes it will be every two weeks, or if a companion is settled, every three months.
In order for companions to feel welcome and settled at Emmaus, I complete inductions for our new companions, assist them into accessing the local GP, dentist and counselling if needed. I work closely with partner agencies and organisations to promote Emmaus Colchester and the work that we do.
It’s rewarding working at Emmaus. You get to meet so many different personalities, hear their stories and help them progress along their journey, seeing them rebuild their confidence. It’s particularly special to see someone’s transition from where they started to their positive outcome when they move on.
The job does bring some challenges. One of the problems is finding the most effective mental health or substance misuse support from other agencies who are stretched or lack financial resources. You almost need to see people fall and reach crisis point before they can reach for help. It’s heart breaking to see people having to leave us because we’re unable to support their needs or ensure their safety, or the safety of others.
We are constantly reviewing our policies and processes to adapt to the ever changing political, economic and environmental climate, for instance, we have reviewed our acceptance criteria to increase the number of people we can support. We will offer more support to prison leavers, and open our doors to people who are unable to obtain public funds, such as housing benefit; while widening the support available to people who struggle with substance misuse.
Being part of Emmaus Colchester means being part of the community. Companions are at the heart of everything that we do and we value and respect their input. We encourage companions to reach out to a wider community once they feel settled and engage with a variety of solidarity projects and activities that we have going on, as solidarity and giving back to those who are less fortunate than ourselves is at the heart of the Emmaus movement.