On Saturday 30 April, to mark two decades since Emmaus Hertfordshire opened its doors, we hosted a special service at St Albans Cathedral attended by Emmaus companions, staff and volunteers, past and present, as well as our supporters.

During the service, former companion Graham did a reading as did Terry Waite, President of Emmaus UK. Terry Waite, became president of Emmaus UK shortly after he was released from captivity in Lebanon in 1991. He had visited the country to try and secure the release of hostages but was himself captured. He was held for 1763 days, the first four years of which were spent in solitary confinement.

Since his release, he has worked tirelessly to support the Emmaus movement in the UK and the work it does with people who have experienced homelessness and those at risk of homelessness.

The event was also attended by Selwyn and Jane Image, founders of the Emmaus movement in the UK, antiques expert and TV auctioneer Charlie Ross, The Lord Lieutenant Robert Voss and Daisy Cooper MP. The High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, Sally Burton also attended, along with Edgar Hill, Mayor of St Albans and Annie Brewster, Vice Chair of Hertfordshire County Council.

Chief Executive of Emmaus Hertfordshire, Duncan Lewis, says:

“Emmaus Hertfordshire is a very special place to work. I’m proud to be part of an organisation that has transformed so many lives.

“From its very humble beginnings Emmaus Hertfordshire is now a thriving community and social enterprise, our ethos of “helping those less fortunate than ourselves” has spanned the last 20 years.

“We could not have achieved any of this without the people that support our work, whether it’s through donating items to our charity shop, shopping with us or volunteering your time to support our companions, you have helped make an incredible difference to the lives of people who have experienced homelessness.”

The Emmaus movement was established in France in the 1950s as a response to the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Paris. The first UK community opened in Cambridge in 1991 and then quickly spread across the country.

In the late 1990s, a group of volunteers began working towards opening a community in Hertfordshire, and in 2002, Emmaus St Albans, as the charity was then known, opened its doors for the first time.

Since then Emmaus Hertfordshire has gone on to support hundreds of people to rebuild their lives after homelessness. All companions are offered a home for as long as is needed, training, support and meaningful work opportunities in the charity’s social enterprises. These include its shops in St Albans, Tring and Boxmoor, its award-winning eBay shop and its house clearance service.