Jim's story

210319 Herts James Wilkinson volunteer headshot web crop

"I always knew that I wanted to find a local cause to support when I retired, and I hoped to lend a hand to people less fortunate. When I read about the work of Emmaus Hertfordshire I approached them right away to see if they had any vacancies and I’ve been volunteering as a delivery driver since April 2018.

I have worked most of my life in the IT industry, first on the technical side and then in sales and management. I have served on the board of four companies, was a CEO of a telecommunications company, and headed a multi-national telecoms equipment manufacturer.  In the mid-nineties I founded my own IT business which I sold 12 years later to my main client.

When I retired, I got all the travelling I wanted to do out of the way and began searching for a place to volunteer. When I mentioned this to a friend, he told me about Emmaus after he’d met Terry Waite, the president of Emmaus UK. He gave me the basic information into what Emmaus is all about and I researched more for myself. The issue of homelessness strikes a chord with me and I think the way Emmaus approaches the issue and supports people long-term into work and housing is very admirable. I knew that it was something that I wanted to be part of.

I volunteer two days a week as a delivery driver, mainly based in the Harpenden area. I spend these two days with Emmaus companions who are living and working at the community. I have learned a lot since taking on this role – before I wasn’t as appreciative of the reasons that people can become homeless and the possible issues surrounding their situation. My understanding of homelessness is now greater after spending time with people that have experienced it. I see that they don’t want sympathy but empathy, and for people to understand the multitude of reasons why someone can become homeless.

My volunteering role with Emmaus has been extremely rewarding, and my win is getting something out of giving something back – there’s a feel-good factor to it. My favourite part is meeting and spending time with all different characters in the community and my days spent here are always very entertaining, with a lot of funny moments.

I also like meeting and talking to all the customers who kindly donate their items to the community - I think Emmaus stands for a lot of people’s idea about charity. Donating to Emmaus isn’t just about giving items or money blindly – it directly supports the community and helps to give people a way back into a structured life with new work experience and it is something that I’m proud to be involved in."