A few weeks ago we bid a fond farewell to one of our companions, Seamus Fox, as he left Emmaus Cambridge to take up a new role as Support Worker with our friends at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney.
We always enjoy watching our companions thrive and grow and, when they are ready to do so, move on to continue their journey, especially when we know that they will be using their lived experience to help others do the same.
All staff, companions and volunteers at Emmaus Cambridge wish Seamus all the very best of luck in his new role.
I had never heard of Emmaus before I became homeless in London at the end of 2015. I was working when I became homeless, working homelessness has been increasing in recent years, as the cost of living and rents continue to rise at vastly inflated rates yet wages remain relatively stagnant this is inevitable. With the gap between the rich and the poor continuing to grow out of control organisations like Emmaus step in to take care of the people whose lives are being blighted by poverty through no fault of their own. The poor and unfortunate are victims who few seem willing to help or even notice. Instead some people blame the destitute for their own misfortune while overlooking the very obvious state of our world with its brutal inequality.
From my very first experience of Emmaus, in Colchester at the beginning of 2016, I immediately understood and bought into the ethos of the organisation. Emmaus offers people who are homeless or who are at immediate risk of homelessness a place to live, meaningful work and a chance to rebuild their lives. Emmaus provides training and support and just about anything a person will need to get themselves back to some semblance of normality. Having work, a purpose in life and emotional support are often the things that people who become misdirected are missing. Emmaus helps so many people by giving these key elements back to them thus giving them a chance to rebuild.
In September 2016 I visited the Cambridge Emmaus community for the 25th Anniversary of Emmaus in the UK. I was only there for a couple of days but before I left to go back to Colchester I told the managers there that I wanted to come and work for them. I felt something there near Landbeach in Cambridgeshire, something positive, something that I wanted to be part of and a couple of months later I moved to Cambridgeshire and became part of that community.
I stayed in Cambridge for nearly 5 years and while I was there I achieved an awful lot. I had already been sober for more than 5 years before that but while I was there I reached my 10 year milestone, 10 years of complete abstinence, 10 years of a life that was unimaginable to me. At one point I didn’t think I would make it past 35 and to be honest, the way I felt back then, I didn’t want to.
I was given a huge amount of love, respect and trust by the companions, staff, trustees and volunteers of the Emmaus Cambridge community. I ran the Logistics department, I was also involved in a lot of fundraising as well as talks and poetry readings. During that time I wrote two books, No Homeless Problem which was published in 2017 and which can be bought from Emmaus shops across the country as well as online and in bookshops. Then during the first lockdown in March 2020 I put the finishing touches to ‘Ten Years Sober’, which is currently being considered for publication by publishers in Ireland (fingers crossed!).
The people who live and work in Emmaus Cambridge have been instrumental in how well I am doing today. No one does anything on their own, we are each a product of our environment and success very often comes because we have good people around us. I spent nearly 5 years in the Cambridge community surrounded by good people who supported, encouraged and loved me and who helped me to achieve everything I have achieved. I could give you a list of names but those people know who they are. Humanity is not about individuals it is about community, it is about the strength we acquire by our togetherness and in Emmaus there is a form of togetherness which is unparalleled.
Just before the 2020 lockdown happened I was of a mind that I should move on, that I should leave the community and find my way elsewhere but then CO-VID hit and I was forced to knuckle down and get on with whatever needed to be done. In April this year I started talking about setting myself up to leave and just as that was happening an opening came up for a residential support worker at Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney. I knew people in the Norfolk community, it had been one of the communities I visited to write No Homeless Problem and I had done readings there as well. I applied and I got the job and that is where I am now, writing this in the Norfolk countryside.
My life nearly ended more than once all those years ago when I was drinking and drugging everyday and going around in desperate circles locked within a cycle of my own unintentional making. But I got out of it, finding a strength within myself and a good group of people who looked out for me gave me everything I need to grow. This has meant that I have been able to get to a point where I can use my experience to help other people who may be caught in circumstances similar to those I was once caught within.
I am two weeks into my new life at Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney and I very happy. I think each of us are meant to be where we eventually end up and I am definitely meant to be here. I will do all I can to make the lives of the people in this community a little better than they were yesterday and I will be forever grateful that I am alive and that I have been given this chance by the amazing people who took care of me along the way. Emmaus changes lives and it has most certainly changed mine.
Look after yourselves and look after each other.