My name is Jim Quinn, I’m from Glasgow and retired as an R.E. teacher six years ago. After retiring I started volunteering for Mary’s Meals, helping out with the backpack initiative, but when that stopped it sort of ended my role.
On an evening in November of last year, I was traveling on the bus through Glasgow at around 11 pm and I saw a soup kitchen happening, and I thought ‘I’d like to help’. So I contacted Emmaus Glasgow and had my interview with Rich, and since then I’ve been helping.
I do a bit of everything at the weekly soup kitchen. I tend to get there a bit earlier as I get the bus, so I start off by getting the tables set up and then wait for the rest of the crew to arrive. We set everything else up and then I’ll either be making teas or coffees, or handing out the sandwiches, I do whatever is needed.
I get on really well with the Emmaus Glasgow staff and other volunteers, we’re like one big family. My favourite thing about volunteering at the soup kitchen is meeting the people we’re supporting. I’m a talker, and I love getting to know people from all walks of life. It’s special when one of the folks we’re helping tells me they’re getting off the street and into housing. One man recently told me this and every week he’d come, and we’d do a countdown until he got into his own place.
The conversations I have with the people we support aren’t just ‘token’ chats, I genuinely enjoy chatting with these people and learning more about their lives, they’re my friends.
I spend about an hour and a half at the soup kitchen every week, but I get so much out of it. When I come home from it, I’m glowing, not just because I’ve helped people but because of the time I’ve spent talking to people.
I thought that the folk who would be coming to the soup kitchen would be elderly gentlemen but it’s not, yesterday we had a woman with her children, aged between five and seven. And that dispels any preconceived notion I had about stereotypical homelessness. Another thing is, we seem to think homeless people are just that, homeless. But the people I meet at the soup kitchen have had colourful lives, they’ve travelled and seen so much of life, but society just assumes being homeless is all they are, when really they are so much more.