“In 1957, my dad and his band of volunteers took a group of 24 underprivileged children to the beautiful island of Jersey for the holiday of a lifetime. Here, The Coombe Trust was born.
In 1963, The Coombe Trust became a registered charity providing free seaside holidays for disadvantaged families living in London. Like my dad, I have always been involved in some form of charity work.
I’ve had a few jobs in the business world, but the corporate jungle was of no interest to me. In 1994, after 13 years working in the USA, I moved home and joined the charity sector full time. I started as a trustee at The Coombe Trust and later became Chief Executive. Now, some twenty years on, I am starting a new chapter working for the homelessness charity, Emmaus Greenwich.
I first became involved in the homelessness plight in November 2006. Inspired by the work I had seen at the 999 Club, a drop-in centre for homeless people and those in crisis, I decided I wanted to try and do something myself.
That evening, I told my sons that I was going to hand out sandwiches, soup and sleeping bags to some homeless people in London and, to my surprise, they joined me. That was the start of what would become Street Souls – a grassroots initiative, providing friendship, food, and comfort to homeless and marginalised people in the city.
In the early days of Street Souls, we did all the cooking at home in our family kitchen. My sons and I would make up stacks of sandwiches on the dining table. Now, we have a great group of volunteers helping us and we prepare all the food in Emmaus Greenwich’s big community kitchen.
The volunteers and I felt part of the Emmaus Greenwich community very quickly, and soon became good friends with many of its resident companions (people who have experienced homelessness). It wasn’t long before we had half a dozen companions volunteering with us on a Friday night, often bringing with them huge amounts of clothing to distribute. I feel very blessed and proud of what Street Souls has achieved so far, but there is a lot more work to do.
In 2020, The Coombe Trust and Street Souls officially merged with Emmaus Greenwich and I joined the charity as Solidarity Manager to help with its outreach projects. My work with Emmaus fills me with joy. A joy in which I am now able to partake on a daily basis.
I’ll always remember what our Patron, the Duchess of Cornwall, said to me on a visit to Emmaus Greenwich a couple of years ago. She said that every time she visits an Emmaus community, she leaves feeling uplifted. ‘Emmaus will do that to you’, I replied.”