Lewis' story

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"I love the concept of Emmaus and took to it straight away when I started volunteering in August 2017. I’m the kind of person that believes in give and take, and to me the Emmaus Gloucestershire community is all about that.

I live in a little village called Ebley, near Stroud, and I am 56 years-old. In April 2017, I resigned from my job at a warehouse/logistics company after being employed by them for 25 years. I was struggling with mental health issues that I believe were due to a stressful and demanding work environment. I was signed off work and returned after four months. After my first week back, I realised I could no longer cope with the job and so I resigned.

I went on to spend months recovering from severe anxiety and depression, however I’m pleased to say that I am in a much better place now. I have a very supportive partner who helped a lot, and my GP and the NHS Let’s Talk team were invaluable. Through them, I have learned various techniques which helped me overcome and manage my mental health. Now, I believe that I have come through all of that with the tools to not only help myself, but to help others too.    

My partner saw an advert for a driver’s mate volunteer position at Emmaus Gloucestershire and suggested that I apply. I thought it would be a good way to help with my recovery and get back into mainstream employment. I think an Emmaus community benefits everyone – people can donate their goods and the retail side can sell them in the charity shops. This helps to fund the community and provide a home for people who have experienced homelessness. In return for a supportive environment, the companions have the opportunity to learn new skills and gain work experience in the shops.

As a driver’s mate, I volunteered once a week, and enjoyed working with the staff and companions at Emmaus Gloucestershire. I quickly felt like part of the community and the companions are like one big family. After a few months in this role, a staff member asked if I had ever considered support work because they thought I would be good at it. Over time, I began to think about this seriously, and decided it was something I wanted to pursue.

Emmaus Gloucestershire offered me the opportunity to volunteer with the support team instead of as a driver’s mate, and I now have a few projects lined up to work on. One project that I am very excited to be involved with is finding out what hobbies and interests the companions have. I know they have a lot of interests and hobbies but don’t always get the opportunity to pursue them, which is normally down to time or cost. I hope to find the companions opportunities in the wider community so they can experience their interests, whether that be photography, learning a new language, or a group sport activity.

I have also joined up with three other local charitable organisations volunteering in their support teams to get even more experience with vulnerable people in the areas of homelessness, mental health and addiction. Every week that goes by makes me more and more certain that it’s the kind of work that I want to do.

If I hadn’t started volunteering at Emmaus, I might not have discovered that I want to help vulnerable people rebuild their lives, and with the help of Emmaus Gloucestershire I am now on the road to becoming a support worker."