I have great memories of my dad, even though he died 40 years ago now. He was employed as a sign writer, but what he really loved was decorating motorbikes. I remember he had these special horsehair brushes and he’d use gold and silver paint to create really beautiful designs. Unfortunately, sometimes the clients he worked for didn’t bother paying him for his time, and this caused trouble at home if he came back without any money.
When I was 16 I left school and got a job as a junior in a transport firm. Then the company hit hard times and within a year I was made redundant – last in, first out. After that I worked as a clerk in the office of a company that made armoured vehicles. When I was 18, my dad died suddenly. He was only 58, but he had bronchitis from being a heavy smoker and from times in the past when he had worked with asbestos.
My mum was in a bad way and so I stayed to look after her. Over the next few years she had several strokes and so I acted as her carer, until in 1986, she died too. I was still living in their council house, but it was too big for me on my own so after a while I transferred to a flat.
I got a new job as a postman, but a run of bad weather meant I got really sick with flu and I resigned from the job. I started signing on, and while I was doing that I volunteered at Emmaus in Coventry. There were some complications with my benefits at that point, and I lost my flat, so I decided to move in to the Emmaus community.
I stayed at Coventry for 15 years. It was like an ever-changing family, I saw tragedies and people coming and going. When they shut down for refurbishment, I went to Emmaus Village Carlton. I was there for nearly five years, but when I turned 60 I felt like I needed to move on.
I have missed the hustle and bustle of the community, but I need my own space. I like making my own decisions about what to eat and when, and what to do with my time.
I’m used to working every day and I am looking for a new job, but times are tough. I still go back to the community to volunteer every Tuesday. I really like working with wood and I’m currently doing a course in wood carving at Bedford College. Moving away was always going to be a leap of faith, but Emmaus helped me until I was ready to take steps towards living on my own.
I’ve been out of the community for a while now, and I love having my own flat and time to get involved in things that I enjoy, like historical visits and just getting out and about in the local area. I’ve got great neighbours, and a kind landlord and Emmaus also helps me with sorting out things like my bills and utilities.
I’ll never forget the support I had from Emmaus. Volunteering here is a great way to feel like I am keeping in touch with the community that supported me for five years. I live nearby and I’m job-seeking, so this is also a good way to add skills to my CV. I do enjoy volunteering - I help with sorting through the bric-a-brac donations that people have brought in. I sort through and make sure everything is clean and can be resold. Volunteering gives me something to do, and I feel I owe the community a lot – it's a good way to pay back some of their kindness.