Alison Whitfield offers foot health services to Emmaus Hull companions
I work as a mobile foot health practitioner and volunteer at Emmaus Hull in my spare time. I’m originally from Aberdeen but now live in Hull. I saw an article about the Orchard, Emmaus Hull’s purpose-built community building, and when I looked into what the charity does I was interested in volunteering. I offer companions free foot care, such as nail cutting, removing corns and calluses and offering advice and tips with common conditions such as fungal nail, athlete’s foot, verrucas and ingrowing toenails.
Many of the companions work hard on their feet so I enjoy giving them something that makes them more comfortable. Volunteering has also helped develop my skills as a practitioner. Many of my weekday customers have ‘easy’ feet and seeing companions with more challenging feet has allowed me to develop professionally.
Where I am unable to offer hands-on support, I always offer advice and signpost companions to relevant services. My proudest moment was persuading a companion who was in a high degree of pain to visit a walk-in clinic and then A&E. I had suspected a fracture and he was very reluctant to be involved with medical intervention. He presented as quite down in himself and I was worried that enduring physical pain wouldn’t help him.
I would encourage others to volunteer at Emmaus and get involved in an organisation that enables formerly homeless people to make changes to develop the confidence and skills needed to reduce the likelihood of being homeless again. A bed for the night is a short-term provision and organisations who understand the wider needs of individuals have a better chance of supporting long term change and improve life chances.
Everyone has a skill that they could offer to help an Emmaus community. They would be helping the wider community in tackling the complex issues surrounding homelessness. Donating your time can be more satisfying than just donating money. It makes you feel part of a wider community that is making a difference.