This December we celebrate the fantastic work and service of long standing Emmaus Leeds employee Katrina Mattock. After just under 13 years at Emmaus Leeds, Katrina is now moving on to a new chapter in life and will remain a Vice Chair on the Board of Trustees for Emmaus UK.

How did you first hear about Emmaus Leeds?

All my working life was spent in the finance world where I ended up as a Senior Executive. I got to the stage where I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, rather than focus on productivity and made the conscious decision to leave a well-paid job. I knew I wanted to work with the homeless, but I didn’t quite know how to get there.  In the 3 months that I had off, after leaving the finance world, I began doing lots of research about homelessness and came across Emmaus, which felt to be something I’d like to be part of.

Then I saw Emmaus Leeds had a job advert for a support worker. I didn’t know how I was going to go from being an executive of a finance company to dealing with vulnerable people, but I got the job!

After volunteering for Samaritans for 40 years, I had spent a lot of time supporting people, who for whatever reasons, found themselves at rock bottom. I think the combination of my management skills and the experience I had gained from Samaritans really helped me mould into Emmaus. After 6 months, as a support worker at Emmaus Leeds, they asked me if I would take on the Community Leader role. I remained in this role for a further 12 and a half years.

How have you seen Emmaus evolve over the years?

Emmaus Leeds has evolved to really encourage the companion’s independence.  Back in 2008, staff would do absolutely everything for the companions but over the years we changed this culture. Empowering companions is what Emmaus is about; to be able to support companions, through to the point where they can think about living independently is such a positive move.

Another big change is that staff moved from sleeping in and covering 24/7 365 days a year.  When I first started, staff would sleep over on the premises and it struck me that, as this was the companion’s home, they could be empowered to look after the place when staff went home.  For many years now we have entrust four responsible companions (called CA’s – Community Assistants) to look after their home whilst staff are away. There’s always a member of staff on-call to support if required.

It helped companions realise that they were trusted and had the means within themselves to do this – brilliant to see people grow. I believe it’s important to treat people as you would wish to be treated.   There are so many tasks companions can do so my mantra has always been “is this task something a companion can do?”.

If the answer is yes, then let’s enable that person take on responsibility and grow in confidence as a person.

What has been the best part of your job?

The best part is making a real difference in people’s lives, within a team. You can’t put that into words really. It’s very humbling to see people turn their lives around with the help of Emmaus. It’s brilliant. You never know minute by minute what your day will bring. It’s challenging, but the rewards are just amazing. I’ve met some fantastic people along my working journey at Emmaus.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Delivering conversations that people don’t want to hear, although those conversations can often turn a person’s life around.  It’s all about how you speak to people; again, treat people as you would wish to be treated.

Describe Emmaus Leeds in 3 words?

Fun, challenging, rewarding.

Do any companion journeys stand out in particular?

There are too many to mention and it’s has been amazing to work with everyone.  Seeing companions rebuild their lives and reconnect with family, children and friends is a heart-warming and humbling experience.

What would you say to anyone considering becoming an employee, trustee or volunteer at Emmaus Leeds?

Come with an open mind.  It’s about being non-judgemental. It’s about giving people another chance. It’s celebrating diversity. You can’t change people’s past, but what you can do is help them change their future.

Besides staying on as an Emmaus UK trustee, do you have any other plans for the next phase of life?

I’m going to spend the next 3 months having a rest! Then in the spring 2021, I’ll look to finding new opportunities.  I am very much a people person therefore, I suspect it will involve engaging with people who are marginalised and excluded.

I have been on the Board of Trustees for Emmaus UK since March 2019 and became a Vice Chair 6 months ago, so that will keep me busy and attached to Emmaus for the foreseeable future. My granddaughter, who is 10,  is someone I’d like to spend more time with before she grows up to the point that being with grandma is embarrassing!