My name is Milee and I have been a trustee at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney since 2014.
I set up my own business as a Conflict Resolution Consultant in 2014, running workshops on handling conflict, as well as workplace and community mediations. No longer being employed meant that I was in charge of my own time and I could find a charity that I was really interested in working with as a trustee.
I was blown away when I had a tour of Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney – not just by the beauty of the site on the old All Hallows Convent grounds, but also the work being done. Before visiting, I liked to think that I was very socially aware, but quickly discovered that I wasn’t. Meeting the companions and understanding what they have lived and what the stability of Emmaus meant to them was an eye-opener. It was the stories of the companions that made me certain that I wanted to be a trustee.
As a trustee, I bring my business head and experience in handling conflict. I am also part of the business development team looking after the social enterprise side of Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney. We work to see how we can develop our shops further and support the staff with guidance and advice.
In return, I get an enormous sense of belonging, being part of the community and being involved in a purposeful and important activity that isn’t about making money. The ethos behind Emmaus is entirely about supporting those that need it while they have the time to rebuild their lives, and I get a huge sense of satisfaction and privilege to be involved in making that happen.
However, the role isn’t without its challenges. We’re not a board that turns up to meetings and then disappears for a month. We are all actively involved in different aspects of the community and social enterprise and we’re very hands-on. One of the best things that I’ve done was to spend the day in the social enterprise lugging furniture about and trying to sell it with the companions – I was exhausted afterwards but felt very included within the community.
As a small charity, and like any other charity or business around, we do face issues with staffing, polices and our journey to become self-sufficient. All of that can be quite draining, but equally we get to do and see wonderful things like companion Barry getting a job, Matt getting a flat, or Darren enjoying work experience with a local company – when that happens it more than compensates for the time that any trustee puts in.
Perhaps one of the best things throughout my time as a trustee is that whenever I visit the community and meet a new companion. More often than not they are quiet, head down, and they are obviously hurting in a lot of ways. When I visit in a couple of months that new companion is looking you in the eye, smiling at customers, and maybe giving you a bit of cheek – it’s just glorious to see.
I would say to someone interested in becoming a trustee at an Emmaus community that if you are looking for an opportunity to make an immediate and genuine difference to the life of someone that is really struggling then this is for you. If you’re up for helping in a practical way then you will get so much more back than you ever put in.