Emmaus St Albans has solidarity success
One of the most important parts of the Emmaus ethos is solidarity: helping someone less fortunate than yourself.
In March 2017 Emmaus St Albans celebrated winning the John Thompson Award, which champions solidarity work in Emmaus communities.
A keen advocate of solidarity work within Emmaus, John Thompson, was Fundraising Manager at Emmaus UK until his death in November 2007, and in 2008 an award for solidarity actions was launched in his memory.
“We were really shocked because we won the award last year and weren’t expecting to win in two years in a row” Jennifer Hewson, Community Support Manager & Volunteer Coordinator at Emmaus St Albans explains.
Three acts by the community stood out to the committee tasked with choosing the recipient of the award for 2017. They included humanitarian trips, a winter rucksack appeal for homeless people in the local area, and completing the ‘Rat Race’ in aid of Shelter.
For Jennifer the diversity of the projects was really important: “After winning the award in 2016 we were really keen to think outside of the box when it came to solidarity to ensure that our efforts reached those most in need of our help.”
Over the past two years the community has worked hard to support migrants living in ‘the Jungle’ in Calais, by organising humanitarian trips that would deliver essential items to those in need. “Our first trip was in one van, with our CEO, a companion, and a few items we thought would be really useful.”
The scale of the project developed quickly, and to date there have been 16 trips. Planning is well under way for the next visit, expected in the next couple of months. “Obviously, a lot has changed over the past couple of months, but now it is no longer illegal to provide the migrants with food and other essentials so we’ll be back with more supplies soon.”
In the run up to winter the community began to appeal for donations of essential items that would be used to collate rucksacks to be distributed to local homeless people in the St Albans area. For Jennifer “it was important to replicate what we were doing in Calais on our own home turf.” Staff, companions and volunteers, helped with their collation and delivery throughout the winter period. The community even received a donation from Emmaus UK's Patron, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.
Robert, a companion at the community was one of those that helped out : “I wanted to do something to help the people surviving where I had once survived myself.” The project was a success and in one night 25 packs were distributed to homeless people in the area.
In August last year staff and companions including Robert joined more 1,500 people and completed the London Rat Race in aid of Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. “Each year we take part in our local five mile race for the Peace Hospice Centre but wanted something harder, longer and for a cause close to our hearts, which is where the Rat Race came in” Jennifer explains.
Solidarity is central to the ethos an Emmaus, and as Robert explains “solidarity events make me question how I see things and what I can do to help. Before Emmaus I could never do these things, go to these places and now I’m doing them and helping people on the way which is the best feeling in the world.”