I have been volunteering in Emmaus Gloucestershire’s Stroud shop since September 2022 and I absolutely love it. For me, it’s like an extended family.

I come in most days to sort the donated clothing and every day is different. It’s hard to say what my favourite thing about volunteering at Emmaus is, I couldn’t pick just one! It’s everything – the management, staff, companions, everybody. There’s no discrimination or separation here and everyone just gets on so well.

I’d never heard of Emmaus before applying to volunteer. I had just moved to the area and was trying to get to know my surroundings when I saw the advert in the window. When I came for the induction, companion Martin took me under his wing. I was so timid and shy at first and everyone here played a part in building up my self-esteem and confidence, helping to bring me out of my shell. For me, it’s more than just volunteering or giving back. It has been completely life-changing.

I’ve been homeless on the streets myself and I think my life experiences help me when working with the companions, although I think that’s my personality anyway! All I had was a sleeping bag and I didn’t know that there was anything like Emmaus. Had I known, my situation may have been different. Everyone needs to know about Emmaus, especially because homelessness could happen to anyone. Life is like a ladder – you can go up the ladder and have everything you need, but then one day you wake up and for reasons out of your control all of that could be gone and you’re down the ladder.

I think the biggest misconception about homelessness is that all people are using drugs and alcohol. That’s just a by-product – it could be someone’s coping mechanism. At the end of the day, I think the world is missing compassion and kindness. We’re all human, we all have problems and issues, and you can’t judge someone else when it could have easily been you. I’ve been there and I understand how quickly it can change.

I’ve built strong relationships with everyone at Emmaus Gloucestershire, including the customers. Sometimes I’ll be going about my day outside of Emmaus and someone will say, ‘Hi you work at Emmaus!’ and we’ll have a chat. The customers bring everyone together.

Volunteering doesn’t just benefit the charity, the cause and the people it supports. What it can do for you as an individual is amazing. I’ve always believed that you should pay it forward and the cause at Emmaus is something that touches my heart because I’ve been there myself. It’s been quite healing and I can’t thank them enough. Now, wherever I go, I tell people to volunteer at Emmaus! I think this place is amazing, I really do.

If you have been inspired by Kellie’s story and wish to volunteer with us, please visit our volunteer page.