Dean came to Emmaus Leeds in the middle of the January 2021 lockdown. Originally from Merseyside, his first experience of an Emmaus community was in France in 2001 and he has recently found new employment in Switzerland.

Me and my wife were having marriage difficulties. We’d separated and I’d got myself a small bedsit in Switzerland and I was doing agency work. I was working part time in kitchens and cafes and getting a bit of social help. But the Swiss authorities withdrew the support and gave me a date on when I had to leave the country at my own expense. I returned to the UK and had to find somewhere to live urgently. Both my parents have passed away and I didn’t have any other family I could contact. I self-referred myself on the Emmaus website and Leeds and Dover got in contact.

I already knew about Emmaus as I had previously stayed at Emmaus in Europe. The first community I walked into was in France on the 9th of May 2001 in a small town just south of Nantes. I lived there as a companion and the Community Leader spoke English. They put me on a crash course for learning French. I was there for about 2 months then went on to Normandy and then to the South East of France near the Swiss border. I moved around the Emmaus communities a lot to experience France and learn French as I went along.

Arriving at Emmaus Leeds

Here at Emmaus Leeds, they welcomed me, and I was very grateful for that, I must say. They interviewed me on Whatsapp whilst I was still in Switzerland. In France the Emmaus system is different whereby you can knock on the door and if they’ve got a free room, you’re in. It’s a different system in the UK.

I came to Emmaus Leeds on the 11th January 2021 so it was right in the middle of the lockdown. I landed at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport and got a train straight to Leeds. I’m the Community Kitchen Porter at the moment which is my working role, 5 days a week. I work Tuesday until Saturday.

Future Plans

I have plans to leave Emmaus Leeds as I have found a new job in Switzerland. My wife is Swiss so I focused my job search in Switzerland.  Getting this job means I can renew my residents card which means I can live, work and get a phone and a bank account in Switzerland.

The job is being a Kitchen Porter in a hotel in Andeer in the Swiss Alps. I got the job because I speak French, German and English which they expect. The interview was totally in German to test my language. It’s a permanent job for as long as I want it, it’s not just for the season. But I’ve got a trial of 2 months and it’s in my hands.

I am looking forward to getting back into work and getting my life back. It’s as simple as that. I received support from the staff here at Emmaus Leeds. The first thing I did during the lockdown was to renew my passport and Leanne (support worker) gave me the information on how to do it.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of referring themselves to Emmaus?

I’d tell them what is entailed and what is expected of them. Then they’ll know what they can expect in return. I’d tell them to respect their colleagues, follow the instructions of the staff. If you’ve got a problem just ask. Come with a good attitude.

Final Words

From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for letting me come to Emmaus Leeds and letting me rebuild my life. I was in a queer situation coming here, in the middle of winter with nowhere to go and it’s Emmaus that helped me out. They helped me get the e-passport and rebuild my life. Without Emmaus I would have been up the creek without a paddle!

We wish Dean all the very best with his new job in Switzerland.