I started volunteering almost 20 years ago, first for another organisation then for Emmaus Glasgow. One of my friends was already volunteering at the time, and from the way that she described her voluntary work, it made me think that it was something that I wanted to get involved in. I have been part of outreach programmes ever since.
I’ve always been a people person. I was the youngest of a family of ten children so I’m a sociable person and like looking after people; I worked in Home Support and Day Care for Families until I retired. I used to close my curtains at night, thinking there are people out there with nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.
Every Wednesday Emmaus comes and picks me up at 8pm. We load the van up and head to the city centre and set up the table full of soup, sandwiches and rolls. We have plastic bags with us so that we can provide those who are street homeless with items to take away. The food is kindly donated by Emmaus Glasgow supporters and high street partners. At Christmas and Easter my church, St Augustine’s in Milton, donate selection boxes and Easter Eggs. Students from the university have joined us in recent years, and they bring with them hot chocolate, tea and coffee as well as juice and water. Come rain, sunshine or snow, we are on Cadogan Street every Wednesday, 8:30pm – 9:30pm, and now every other Sunday too from 7pm to 9pm, feeding and talking to the people who are still sleeping on the streets.
I am born and raised in Glasgow and the changes I have seen in homelessness over the years have become worse, not better. Even the big organisations recognise that there is a growing issue as they donate their leftover food rather than throwing it away. It is a travesty that there are more people using our outreach programme than when we first started it all those years ago. For many people who visit us, it isn’t just about the food, we are probably the first person they have spoken to all day, and in some cases days.
During my time volunteering, I’ve seen highs and lows on the streets. There was a young man in his 20s who stopped in his car when he saw what we were doing and donated £80 for Emmaus. I used some of the money given to us to buy people socks and toiletries. As the cost of living has increased, there have been many people coming who have somewhere to live, but who are in a great deal of poverty and can’t manage on the money they have; people who have £2 left to spend on food or put in their electricity meter.
Volunteering with Emmaus Glasgow is my life. Now that I am retired, I make sure I am there every week without fail. I even plan my holidays around it! Emmaus is an amazing charity and there’s nothing else quite like it out there. The people supported by Emmaus Glasgow who come pick me up have been working all day, and then they go out of their way in their spare-time to talk to those who are still living on the streets. As they have been there themselves, they know how desolate it can be. Especially when you have no friends or family.
I hope to be doing this for a good few more years and would say to anyone thinking of volunteering with Emmaus Glasgow to give it a go. The best thing you can give someone is your time. It changed my life and it is the only thing I want to be doing in my retirement. Not only do you get to help people who are truly struggling, but you get to be a part of something bigger, part of a movement that is genuinely helping people who desperately need it!