Today marks International Day of Happiness, a UN campaign focused on recognising that progress should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy.

This idea is key to our work at Emmaus where we offer a safe and happy home to people who have experienced homelessness. Success is as much about the happiness and wellbeing of the people supported in our communities as it is about their progress and achievements.

Self-acceptance

Jos, a companion at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, found being part of the community has given him time to better understand himself and become happy in who he is. “For the first time in a long time I am not trying to be someone else. I’m just me. It’s given me the time to focus on myself and to begin to like myself.”

For Geordie, it was a case of regaining the self-assurance he’d lost while he was homeless. “I’ve regained my self-respect. You can ask people round here; my confidence has gone way way higher than it was when I started. I’m happy at the minute.”

Confidence

Believing in ourselves and what we can achieve plays a big part in our happiness. Dominique is a volunteer at Emmaus Suffolk and was supported by staff to start a business. “Volunteering at Emmaus Suffolk has transformed my life. It has given me a sense of wellbeing; a sense of purpose. I no longer feel like I am just wasting away. I smile more now, and I properly laugh. It has given me so much confidence, the staff believe in you and totally support you to achieve big things.”

Jamie, a companion at Emmaus Hertfordshire, also values the support of the community. “I think for most of my life I was in survival mode, but now I’m thriving, and I really can’t believe who I am today. I feel as though I am growing and becoming a better person for my daughter.”

Time and space

For many people, having the time and space to take stock of what they want to do next is the most valuable part of being at an Emmaus community. Michelle was struggling with her mental health when she joined the Emmaus South Wales community but with support, she is rebuilding her life. “The good thing about Emmaus is that there is no rush. You don’t come in and get told that you have a certain amount of time. I don’t want to be here forever, but at the moment I’m very happy.”

Similarly, Ruth struggled to adjust after her husband died suddenly. “I needed to be somewhere which would give me a steppingstone into a new life. Emmaus gave me time and space. Now, I have no long-term plans and am happy to take each day as it comes.”

Hope

The sense of happiness offered by our communities is well summarised by Keith, a companion at Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. “For me, Emmaus is all about support – giving people a purpose – a reason to get out of bed and do something positive everyday – not only for yourself, but for others. It is also all about hope; thanks to Emmaus I now have hope for the future, whatever it brings.”

Please do follow the links above to read more about the stories of people at Emmaus communities across the UK. To find out more about the International Day of Happiness I encourage you to visit the campaign website.

Thank you for reading and best wishes,
Simon

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Simon Grainge is Chief Executive of Emmaus UK. Emmaus supports more than 800 formerly homeless people across the UK, providing people with support, a home for as long as they need it and meaningful work and training. There are now 29 Emmaus communities and five Emmaus groups currently working to open new communities.