I have volunteered at Emmaus Gloucestershire since 2006. Emmaus has been part of my life for a long time now and I love it. Everyone knows me as Backy John, even people involved with other Emmaus communities across the country.

I’m a self-employed bricky and enjoy buying and selling furniture from my time running an antique shop years ago. Before I started as a volunteer, I would buy a lot of furniture from Emmaus and got to know the companions and staff well. To help make more money for the charity, I began advising companions on what prices to put on certain items, especially if they were valuable. Eventually, someone asked if I wanted to be a volunteer and that’s how it all started!

I volunteer at Emmaus one day per week alongside my job mostly doing the driving for the shop runs, collections, and deliveries, as well as helping with heavy lifting and checking prices.

I’m pretty chatty, so I like getting to meet new people and over the years I’ve met a lot. New companions usually go out on the vans with me and I chat with them, they tell me all their stories, how they got to Emmaus and what’s going on in their life. Even though they all have a support worker, I think it’s nice to talk to somebody different.

A highlight of my time volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire is going to the Paris Salon – I’ve been seven times! The Paris Salon is a huge sale that brings together all the Emmaus groups across Europe and the UK. When they do the countdown for opening the sale, people are literally running and jumping through the doors. The past seven times, I’ve done the driving to France. A long old drive, but it was always a good day.

I like the ethos of Emmaus and volunteering here makes me feel good. People come in as companions with all different kinds of problems and have to find their way in life. Emmaus is like a stopover point to a better life and it helps companions as much as it can, but if someone doesn’t want to help themselves then it won’t work. It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out.

I always tell people outside of Emmaus that the first point of call if you want to buy furniture should be Emmaus, I even give out Emmaus cards to people with the phone number on. To anyone thinking of volunteering at Emmaus Gloucestershire, I’d say get on with it!