My name is Sandy, and I’ve been involved with Emmaus Hastings since around April 2022.

I lived in South Africa for 15 years, from 2005 until 2021, and came back because I needed to be with my children and grandchildren. I did a lot of volunteer work over there, and was particularly involved with the hospice and the hospice shop, which I loved. I really missed the involvement when I moved here. I came up to Emmaus Hastings one day to pick up a plant pot. On the spur of the moment, I asked a lady – who I now know is Sallie (Quinlan, Deputy Community Manager) – “Do you need any volunteers?” And that was it, I’ve never looked back!

Coming back from South Africa on my own, after I lost my husband over there – it was a long time ago now, but we had a very happy life – was very difficult to begin with. Packing up to move back, it was during Covid and I was not in a very good mental state. Last Christmas I had my family and friends, but it was very difficult adjusting to life back in England again. Emmaus has done absolutely huge things for me, for getting my confidence back. I was always a very confident person but had lost some of that, and it’s given me so much confidence back. It’s a big part of my life. My friends and family are really supportive of me being here, and help me to spread the word to people who haven’t heard of it – I always collect items from them to bring in as donations!

I just love it, and I don’t mind doing anything! Mainly I help with sorting through the huge amount of donations we have, mainly many, many black bags of clothes that come in daily. Then we sort things out into their sizes, put them on hangers and items that need it I help with steaming. I also help with pricing things up and then getting them out on the shop floor, and then helping to tidy up items on the floor and sometimes to rearrange displays.

I just love the atmosphere here – it’s a real community. Sally showed me the accommodation block, and the whole reason of the charity to help people who have experienced homelessness and help them get back into society, I just find that fantastic. Since I’ve started I’ve looked more into homelessness and found interesting reading about it, and chatting with the companions and hearing their stories they’ve all had very interesting and varied lives. They also like hearing about me and my own life back in South Africa. I also love chatting to the customers, many of whom also totally love this place and come in very frequently.

It’s just a wonderful charity and I’m really happy to be involved in it.