I started volunteering at Emmaus around 2 years ago. Volunteering at Emmaus came at the perfect time. I had retired and had just finished my degree. I was doing a part time Masters but knew I wanted to volunteer my time doing something that allowed me to be helpful whilst occupying my time. I have been volunteer with the eBay team ever since!
Originally, from Newcastle, I moved to Cambridge when I was 23. When I arrived in Cambridge, I didn’t have a job or a place to stay. For the first two weeks, I stayed in B&B’s. Finally, I found a job washing dishes in one of the Cambridge colleges and then got a job as a cleaner in Sainsbury’s. I remember people would bump into me whilst I was mopping the floors, I just felt invisible. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do but eventually I became a nursing assistant and worked for the NHS for 30 years. During my time in the NHS, I worked in various different roles supporting people with mental health and other health issues. I loved my job; I met some incredible people and really admired the courage of the individuals I worked with. Mental health affects every part of your life, your relationships, work opportunities, the way people perceive you. For a number of years I was part of an outreach team who supported people who had disengaged from mental health services. I understood why some people had disengaged, many had been let down by mental health services. It was all about building a relationship with the person. Not many people want to refuse help, but it is often how you offer it.
Volunteering in the community is about recognising where people are and that the situations companions find themselves in, could easily have been me. Life is confusing and difficult. I try to have empathy for people’s situations and offer support where needed. Emmaus Cambridge is an amazing charity to volunteer for, they value and respect everyone in the community and encourage people to work to the best of their ability. People can always surprise you, the amount of times I have sat down and spoken to a companion and been amazed by their knowledge and experience. People are so much more capable than people think. It is great for me to feel useful and I really enjoy being able to contribute to such a great charity.