Celebrating his 60th Birthday this year, almost 20 years of working at Emmaus, and two previous fundraising challenges to Nepal, John Baker, Maintenance Manager at Emmaus Cambridge is now taking on the Island Peak! John shares the story of his time at Emmaus, his experiences of hiking Kilimanjaro & Everest Base Camp, his upcoming challenge, and why he braves so much for Emmaus.
Working At Emmaus
I was working for myself for about 18 years before I came to Emmaus. At that time Cambridge had no maintenance role so I would pop in every now and then to decorate some rooms and help them out. After a while, they asked me if I wanted a full-time job here and of course, I quickly said yes.
Every morning I look forward to coming in, even after all these years, I still get that feeling. I look after 50 rooms, 4 flats, a 3-bedroom house, all the grounds, and the shops. For me though, the companions always come first, and my role is secondary. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the years and I try to take the time to make them feel at home.
Taking on the Challenge
I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Before re-training in maintenance I was in the forces for 6 years which was a character-building experience for sure. So, I knew when I wanted to fundraise for Emmaus that I’d push myself.
My son and I always used to go to Wales to go hiking and we would chat with people up there about different hikes. Someone spoke about hiking to Everest Basecamp, and I thought, well that’s out of my league, and then of course, in November 2019 I achieved that and raised £4200 for Emmaus UK! Island Peak is a big step up, it’s an altitude of 6,189m!
This time I wanted to fundraise for Emmaus Cambridge because I’m here every day, I see the things that need to be improved or which companions need extra help. I really hope that everyone gets behind this challenge and donates if they can, it would mean a lot to see the community supported.
The Impact of Hiking
There’s a lot of time to think when you’re up doing these long hikes and I found out a lot about myself, even more than I thought I would. On summit night for Everest, there was an 8-hour climb in the middle of the night and halfway up you begin to doubt yourself, everyone does. But because I was doing it for Emmaus, I had a purpose and a vision for why I needed to keep going. When you get to where you’re going the emotion is overwhelming.
It’s been a very hard few years since my last challenge, I’ve lost my mum, dad, and most recently my sister. When I went to base camp, I left a note for my mum on a stone, and I want to visit that again and say hello to her. It’s made me even more determined to hit this one, and the fact it’s my 60th birthday this year, it’s important for me personally to continue to push myself.
Fundraising for Emmaus
I’m not very self-celebratory, I never have been. That’s why I do these challenges for Emmaus, I want to do it for something bigger than myself. I just wouldn’t have the same motivation otherwise. When I went to Kilimanjaro, I raised £6800 for Emmaus Cambridge, and I saw the money that was raised go directly into the community. That’s what I like about raising it locally for Cambridge, I’m involved in all the projects, and I know all the people that will be supported through them.
So many people who have come through here over the last 20 years, it’s just one bad thing that happens and then their lives spiral and you realise how fragile everything is.
It would mean so much to me if people donated. Emmaus is an organisation that supports people less fortunate than themselves. I think everyone is just a couple of salaries away from being in the same position as one of the companions here, and I know if that were the case, we’d all want help like Emmaus offers. I’ve seen the amazing work Emmaus does to support people like this and I hope other people see this too and support my latest challenge!
All proceeds will go directly to the Emmaus Cambridge Community and Companions