Hi, I’m Richard. I’m originally from Leeds and became an Emmaus companion in 2000. I moved back to my hometown to join Emmaus Leeds in 2010. My main role in the community is working in our three shops, and sometimes doing some paperwork for the market stall and vans.

On the 18th August I visited the Emmaus community in Péruwelz, Belgium, where I stayed for a week on a working holiday. European Emmaus communities do things differently to how I’m used to in England, so the work I did was a change for my normal routine. Their shop only opened for two days, so for the rest of the week I went along in the wagon with the Belgian Companions collecting and delivering furniture from both France and Belgium.

About a week before I flew to Belgium we received an e-mail from Yves who is the Community Leader at Emmaus Péruwelz. He said that I was invited to a wedding at Emmaus ‘La Poudriere’ which is in the centre of Brussels. We organised a bus to take me into Brussels from the airport and I made my way to the community. The community was massive and had about 40 people living and working there. It was an African couple who were getting married and the wedding was like nothing I had ever been to before, I was made very welcome and got to experience a traditional African wedding ceremony with food afterwards. I couldn’t have chosen a more interesting way to start my trip. After the wedding we drove to Péruwelz and I spent the remaining time at this community which was very different as it was in a small town, very rural and surrounded by countryside.

When I had some spare time, I went for walks in the town and the countryside, taking lots of pictures as I went. I got involved in the Péruwelz Emmaus community, doing as the Belgian companions did and going for meals, trying the local cuisine, and eating food grown on the farm. On my last night I was taken for a meal at a local restaurant with Yves and his wife. I had a massive burger and fries, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and took a picture of this as well! I was told that if I ever wanted to go back to visit I would be very welcome. I’m hoping I can set up an exchange with this community in the future to enable some of their Companions to visit us in Leeds.

One main difference about being in Emmaus Europe is that 99% of the people that live in the town or the city where the community or shop is, knows about Emmaus. We are not as well known in the UK and I hope that I see the day when Emmaus is just as much of a household name in this country.

Going abroad on working holidays with Emmaus gives me the chance to experience other countries and how Emmaus operates there, as opposed to how we do things back in Leeds. I got the chance to visit the Salon in Paris three times during my time with Emmaus, and I also visited Bosnia for a month back in 2010. I’m keen to go abroad to other communities that need a hand for a week or two in the future – I’m always available! It feels like a worthwhile way to see a change of scenery.