“I’ve been a trustee at Emmaus Greenwich since 2017 and find the role very rewarding.
Emmaus was a charity I knew about previously as I’d been donating to them for 10 years, and so when Tony, the then Chief Executive of Emmaus Greenwich, invited me to get more involved, I was really pleased to do so. I worked as an asset manager in the City for a long time, looking after other people’s money, so I was very happy to put some of those skills to use in a more human way, as treasurer for the community.
There are a few reasons why I wanted to work with Emmaus, but the main one is that its story is really compelling – Emmaus is all about being part of a community and helping others to help yourself. Emmaus doesn’t patronise people but allows them to use and develop their skills to improve their lives; we’re really just opening doors.
I live in South-East London, where you have prosperous areas right up against places where people have almost nothing. I think that’s jarring, and I’ve always wanted to give back and try to help the people who are my neighbours, but just happen to find themselves in a very different situation.
This year has been a strange time with the pandemic, but you’ve got to make the most out of it and there have been some silver linings. Through lockdown, my daughter and I helped the Emmaus Greenwich community with donations. We started collecting items from neighbours, putting them into our garage and quarantining them. Then when the garage was full, we drove down to the community and donated it all. We ended up bringing in a lot of donations from the area, which helped the companions to keep busy, sorting out and refurbishing the items.
Another thing we did during this time was to open our newly bought move-on house as a unit for new companions to quarantine in. It meant that we could still welcome new companions into the community while making sure everyone was kept safe.
Being involved with getting the move-on house has been a major highlight of my time on the board. The idea is that this house will be somewhere we can move companions to when they’re ready. We’ll rent them an affordable space and arrange a support plan, so we can continue looking after them once they’ve left the community. At the moment, if you leave an Emmaus community, you leave your house, your friends, your support network – your whole life really. We’ve now got a house where we can still support companions and give them a stepping stone to the next stage of their lives.
For anyone thinking about becoming a trustee at Emmaus Greenwich, I’d say do it. It’s really rewarding. For new Emmaus trustees, my advice would be to get into the community and meet everyone as soon as possible. It’s easy to think, particularly if you come from business, of companions as customers – but they’re not, they’re just people, and it’s good to meet all the individuals and listen to their stories, so you can understand the challenges they face.
It’s been a great journey so far and something that’s given me the opportunity to really help my local community.”