I began searching for volunteer work when I retired from my customer service role at Aviva after 12 years. I didn’t know Emmaus existed before volunteering in November 2016, even though I only live 10 miles away from their community in Ditchingham. Now, I volunteer two or three times a week helping in the stock room, sorting the clothing and linen, or helping in the office.
Before this role, I had experienced a long period of bad health and had a few surgeries after retiring. I didn’t leave the house much and it took a long time for me to steady myself. Volunteering has really brought me out of myself, and the other regular volunteers really welcomed me. I now go to WI meetings with them, and we go out to the cinema, for meals and to concerts. I didn’t know them beforehand, but we’ve become great friends – it’s lovely.
Like all volunteers that start at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, I was provided with training in all areas that I help in. However, the best thing about this role is that I can make my own suggestions, which are listened to, and that really does make me feel like I’m making a difference and that my time spent volunteering is valued. Most recently, I suggested reorganising the clothing to make it easier for the customers to find their size, and we’ve had great feedback from that already.
The best thing about volunteering at Emmaus is the companions. I now know most of them well as they rotate between the different areas within the shop, and working with them is a great experience. They really do make you feel involved, and some of them go out of their way to say hello or help with heavy lifting. There is a stigma towards homelessness, and people imagine the worst. Seeing customers come in, meet the companions, and see that they are just people trying to turn their life around is very rewarding to be a part of.
Volunteering at Emmaus has given me the opportunity to get out and do things again. I feel useful here, get to help a great cause, and meet a lot of different people.