Our new CEO, Donna Talbot has been with us approaching two months.We sat down with her to chat about her hopes for her new role and what she plans to bring to the charity.
The reason I applied to Emmaus Cambridge, was because I recognised it was a great charity doing great things, and it appeared a supportive environment for everyone involved, staff, companions, trustees, and volunteers. It was evident that Diane and the team had been responsible for incredible work over the last decade and beyond to develop opportunities for those who live on the site. There are so many ways for people here to broaden their skills and build their confidence.
I haven’t worked in the homelessness sector before. Previously I worked in a hospice charity, and through our work, it was interesting to discover how we were supporting homeless people. The fact that you are experiencing homelessness doesn’t mean that you are less likely to get a life-limiting illness and in fact, if anything, some people were more likely to encounter illness. We often found that people who had found themselves homeless felt they didn’t deserve the support our hospice charity could give to them. At the hospice, we worked to build up trust with these people so they knew they could access and would be welcome within our services.
Over the years we were also involved in several fundraising activities alongside other charities such as Jimmy’s Cambridge, Winter Comfort, and Churches for Homeless all of whom were doing great work in the city, and we were able to benefit alongside them and support each other.
First impressions of the role
My first month has been fantastic, the trustees, my colleagues, the companions, the volunteers, and the customers have all been terrific. It’s been lovely to see people come to work with such positivity and support each other through the most challenging of times. The team works really closely, to ensure we are enabling people to recover from difficult experiences, rebuild their lives, and get back on their feet.
A companion beautifully summed up why I’m here during a conversation last week. They said ‘you don’t just give me a bed, you give me a bed and purpose to get out of it’. We all need purpose, and this shows the simple nature of the work we’re trying to do and the immense impact of it.
I’ve loved seeing the compassion of our companions when they have returned from visits to households in the local area. We provide solidarity packages and that means we take furniture and homeware out to individuals who have less than our companions and who are struggling financially at no cost to them. The companions come back and feel upbeat by being able to make a difference. A large part of Emmaus is helping others, and we know that by helping others we are helping ourselves.
One of the most interesting things I’ve found since joining Emmaus is that the staff who are paid to be here and the companions who effectively volunteer dovetail so neatly together. Members of the public may be unaware of who is a companion and who is a member of staff and that should be celebrated because we work really hard to ensure that everybody is respected and offered the same growth, opportunities, and learning. Being able to interact with the public is an important aspect of being within Emmaus for our companions. I greatly appreciate the public’s sensitivity and mindfulness when speaking with and encountering every member of my team whether that is when visiting our shop and café or during a collection or delivery. Kindness is essential if we are all committed to offering the support that is needed by our companions.
Looking ahead to the future
What most excites me about the role going forward is hearing ideas from companions and suggestions from my colleagues who both have huge appetites for us doing more, achieving more, and supporting more people. I find that really exciting; I’m looking forward to seeing how we shape that plan together. It will be a team effort and it will involve talking to people inside our organisation as well as working out how we fit into the local sector through partnership working and other avenues. I want to ensure we can give our companions the best support and opportunities possible to allow them to flourish.