“A very long time ago I had personal experience of living on the streets.

I was helped by some wonderful people working for various charities, and with their encouragement I was able to get back on my feet, finish my A levels, go to university and have a career I love.

I’ve always wanted to give back and do something to support a homelessness charity.

I first heard of Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire when I was moving house and needed furniture, so I checked out their charity shop on Red Lane in Coventry. I was moving into an 18th century cottage, and I managed to find almost everything I needed for my new home at the Emmaus store for an amazing price. Soon after, I was looking to start something new during Lent (instead of giving something up). Emmaus’s mission and ethos really spoke to me, so I decided to start volunteering.

I work full time so I usually volunteer for one day every month. So far, I’ve spent time in the shop, learning the ropes and meeting people being supported by the charity (known as companions). I’ve also worked on the phones, answering queries and booking in collections and deliveries using their online system.

I’ve learnt so much from the companions about the challenges they face and how hard they work to overcome them. Meeting some of the customers who come into the shop has been eye-opening too: there are people from all walks of life. It’s a really cosmopolitan place.

My favourite thing about volunteering is that it gives me a chance to do something completely different to my day job as an historian at Loughborough University. I feel really useful and that I’m making a difference, but it also sometimes takes me out of my comfort zone, in a good way.

I would definitely recommend volunteering at Emmaus. I know that trying something new can seem difficult, but everyone is so friendly and welcoming, and the whole team has a laugh while at work. It’s obvious to see what amazing work the charity does.”

Since sharing her story with us, Catherine has expanded her volunteering here, by kindly joining our board of trustees