Rachel's story

24052019 Greenwich Rachel Mills Volunteer web

"I am American student from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, who interned at Emmaus Greenwich for four months in 2019 whilst studying abroad in London. My time in the UK flew by and I loved the experience of living in a great city, as well as interning at Emmaus Greenwich.

London appealed to me due to the number of art museums located in the city because I am studying Art History, Philosophy and Literature. However, to avoid staying in the bubble of other students and the business of Central London, I decided to intern at Emmaus Greenwich. I had never heard of Emmaus before, but when I researched its background it sounded like a place where I could interact with the local community, hearing and sharing stories with people. I wanted to feel like I was living in London rather than just being a tourist. 

For two days a week I interned at Emmaus Greenwich, in addition to taking classes and doing research for my course. I helped wherever I was needed, which was anything from filing in the office, helping with paperwork and sorting donations, to helping in the Plumstead and Poplar shops and cooking in the kitchen. As much as I enjoyed the days working in the shops interacting with the customers, my real joy was being in the community home, where the offices are, because I got to talk to the companions residing there.

I had never volunteered at a homelessness charity before, but quickly felt part of the community. When I first arrived, I did feel a little on the outside because everyone knew each other, but within a few weeks I had built friendships with the staff, companions and other volunteers. The best thing about feeling like part of the community was seeing some of the companions move on to live independently – it was sad to see them go, but very hopeful at the same time.

Interning at Emmaus Greenwich was one of the highlights of studying abroad. Notre Dame offers a variety of other internships and I think I had one of the best experiences out of everyone else that I’ve spoken to. Emmaus Greenwich enriched my experience in London, and I loved the hands-on work rather than an isolated office internship. Some days I never knew what to expect when I would go to the community, and some days were very chaotic, but it was the best unexpected experience."