My name’s Anita and I’ve been working at Emmaus Colchester as Operations and Finance Manager since April 2009. Although I was born in Singapore, as my dad was in the army, I went to school in Colchester and settled back here after joining the army and travelling the world myself.
My background is in accounts and I’ve previously worked as a military accountant and as a cashier in a legal practice, before taking a career break to have my family. I then started to work for another charity, The Hythe Community Centre, where I had a full-on voluntary role for six years, working up to 50 hours a week, as Trustee and Treasurer.
It came about when I joined a group using the facilities at the Community Centre and was asked to help set up a Board, from there I was invited to become a member of the Board at The Hythe Community Centre, as it was quite new at that stage and had only just been set up. It gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the charity sector and decided that was the way I wanted my career to go, rather than going back to the corporate world. I’m still very much involved with them as I remain the Treasurer.
So, when I was ready to go back to work on an employed basis, I looked for a charity job. When I saw this job advertised at Emmaus I thought it suited me down to the ground. I was aware of Emmaus, having been a previous customer when they were based at the Cowdray Centre, I also received their newsletter and liked the way they worked and operated.
It appealed to me because I liked their business model, not only do Emmaus provide a home and training to formerly homeless people to set them on the right path, they also help to reduce landfill in Colchester with recycling, and provide very low cost recycled furniture to low income families. Plus, they help to reduce benefits, which saves money for the public purse.
At Emmaus Colchester I have two hats - finances and operations. When it comes to money matters, I take responsibility for the accounts, bookkeeping and petty cash. In terms of operations, I make sure that all the correct systems are in place for everyone, ensuring we stay compliant and that everything’s done correctly. This includes being responsible for fire alarm testing, seeing that our vans are legally compliant and have MOTS, and that all our electrical appliances are PAT tested, to name but a few.
I don’t tend to work with our companions on a day-to-day basis like the keyworkers, but I’m always here to have a chat and get involved. Sometimes I find the companions are happy to open-up to me as they can speak to me about their concerns more casually than their keyworker as it’s not in a meeting situation. I’d never want to turn a companion away by telling them it’s not part of my job. I try to help them where I can and send them in the right direction.
Although I don’t help the companions directly with their budgeting, as this is part of the keyworker’s role, I usually end up putting everything in place, by setting up bank accounts and standing orders.
I work with a great team and I tend to think of myself as the neutral one in the middle of the business and community – making sure that everything runs smoothly.
During my time at Emmaus I’ve seen a lot of changes. Over 400 companions have passed through the community during my time at Colchester and I’ve meet lots of different characters. Ten years on, I’m still enjoying working here. The best thing you can see is the change in someone and know that you’ve helped in making that change. Sometimes you find that things don’t always fall into place for the companions until they’ve moved on, but we know we’ve helped to start that process.