Until last year, I was the headmistress of a school, working full time in charge of 40 staff and 340 pupils, so the prospect of retirement was somewhat daunting for me. I just couldn’t imagine stopping work, and settling into a life of gardening and lunches -as lovely as that is, I wanted more.
In 2011, I had been overseas to help build a school in Uganda. It was hard work, but rewarding, and it was on that trip that I met Dave Perry, the community leader at Emmaus Bristol.
I suppose he planted the seed back then, that Emmaus might be somewhere that could use my skills – and it was an organisation that I was familiar with. Having grown up with two parents who were missionaries I knew of the work that the charity did worldwide, though I had not had much contact with Emmaus in the UK.
I started volunteering at Emmaus shortly after my retirement, and on the day I started the volunteer coordinator happened to leave, so that became my designated role. I keep track of who is working for us and when they are available, and match the appropriate people to the appropriate roles. I also help people to navigate our paperwork, which is a little dense, but is important, as of course, some of the companions are vulnerable people.
Mind you, even after six months, when I walk in and see new faces, I am never sure who is a volunteer, who is staff, who is visiting us from overseas, and who is a companion – and I think that this is the whole point of Emmaus. We are all one team and there should not be divisions. We are all responsible for making the community work successfully – everyone has something important to contribute, and personally I enjoy the feeling that I too am making a difference, if only in a small way.