In a past life I was a troubleshooter for a serviced office company in the West End of London. I did that for ten years, working my way up from the bottom to regional level. It was a good job, and I gained a lot of transferable skills, but more importantly for me, the company was also flexible in letting me have time off to volunteer overseas.
I spent time working out in Burma, Thailand, and especially the Philippines, which I returned to on three occasions. The work we did out there was with deeply impoverished people – those who had found themselves homeless, including single mothers, sex workers and children – and it was when I was out there in 2009 that I started thinking about my career in the UK. It started to seem strange to me that I would help people abroad, but I wasn’t doing the same for my community back home.
I wanted to make a real change in my life and when I got back I wrote letters and sent CVs offering to volunteer for all of the national homelessness charities that I had heard of. I didn’t hear back from any of them, I was so disappointed.
It was at that point that my mum said: “What about Emmaus?” I thought she was mad, because I thought of Emmaus as the second-hand furniture shop a few streets away, but within days I was volunteering as an admin assistant.
From my very first day I was made to feel completely welcome. I remember a companion asking me in, making me a cup of tea and settling me in the office. He kept coming back to check on me all day. After a couple of months, Dayo, our community chief exec, came to me and asked me whether I wanted to stay for good.
By that point I was smitten. Seriously, that is the way I feel about Emmaus. I love my job, I love coming to work, and I love chatting with the guys. I went for the interview and got the job. Yes, sometimes there are difficult days, especially when a companion I particularly get on with starts to have trouble or decides to leave, but mostly I just feel comfortable here. Every day is different, and every day brings me a diamond, something that will make me smile.