I have been a companion at Emmaus Mossley since 2013. I’m a Mossley lad, grew up in Mossley and I love the town, so to be a part of Emmaus Mossley is fantastic.

Emmaus was there for me when I was at my lowest and has helped me to rebuild my confidence and my life. I can say with all sincerity that I honestly don’t know where I would be without Emmaus, it really doesn’t bear thinking about.

Being part of Emmaus Mossley is very enjoyable – working and living with other people and talking to them about their lives. I also like meeting our customers and supporters, talking to them about things if they ask.

My day-to-day role involves a real mix of activities. I am one of a number of chefs who cook meals for the community and order stock. My role also involves helping out on the café serving customers, clearing tables and washing pots. I work in the retail area to serve customers, load items into vehicles and get furniture ready for delivery. When needed, I also work on the vans, delivering and picking up donated items, to and from customers’ homes.

At Emmaus I have been involved in many different solidarity activities. Solidarity is an important part of the Emmaus ethos and something I enjoy helping out with. In the past, I have volunteered on the soup runs to Manchester City Centre, providing clothes, warm food and drinks to people who are street homeless.

I currently volunteer on the Mossley Town Team, helping to improve the town and taking part in community events. I also give my time as an event steward for the annual Whit Friday walks and I’m part of the organising team for Mossley SOUP. It’s great to be involved in your town and the appreciation you get is fantastic.

An opportunity to travel

Emmaus has allowed me to see and do much more than I ever imagined. I have visited Emmaus Feniks in the Netherlands to work in their gardens and meet other members of their community. I have taken part in the Paris Salon on three occasions – an annual event that raises money for Emmaus International charity projects worldwide. I’ve also been to Emmaus conferences in Geneva in Switzerland and San Sebastian in Spain. These visits were really interesting, meeting and speaking to people from all over Europe.

I’ve been to a solidarity workshop in Cologne in Germany and there I met a lady from an Emmaus in Bosnia. We swapped details and about 18 months later I received an email saying that she and her colleague would be visiting the UK and wanted to visit Emmaus Mossley. I put it to my Community Director, and she said yes, definitely, so the visit was arranged. Off the back of that, four of us from Emmaus Mossley did a volunteer work camp, helping at their community in Bosnia. The contrast between our community and the work they were doing was a real eye-opener.

I’ve also done a couple of volunteer work camps in France and it’s always interesting to see how different Emmaus communities operate. I hope to take part in other Emmaus work camps abroad and I’m always encouraging other companions to take part in them too.

Representing my fellow companions

For a number of years, I have represented Emmaus Mossley on the national Emmaus Companion Forum. The main role of the Companion Forum is to bring together companions from all the UK communities to voice their opinions. We get together and chat about things happening at communities, good and bad. You can pretty much guarantee that if something is happening in one community, it’s happened in another. Obviously, it’s not one size fits all but having that opportunity to learn and chat about things hopefully has a positive impact.

In 2018 I started as Chair of the Emmaus Companion Forum. The chairperson role has always been for two years, so in February 2020 I put it out there for candidates to step up and apply for the role. At the time, my fellow Forum representatives encouraged me to sit another two-year term and as nobody else came forward, I agreed to carry on.

In my time as Chair, the two things I’m most proud of are helping more companions take part in trips abroad and getting more companion representation. When I started as Chair, companions couldn’t use the Emmaus Companion Training Fund for trips abroad for solidarity work camps. I felt that these trips were an essential part of companion development and so we managed to get that changed.

I’d say there were about seven or eight companion reps who regularly attended when I started as Chair. Pre-pandemic we got that up to around about 14 or 15 and then during the pandemic, via Teams, we got about 20 people taking part. To get companions from so many communities interested and wanting to be involved in the Forum is a brilliant thing. It shows that throughout the federation, companions care about what happens in their communities and to other companions.

Helping to make a better Emmaus

One of the most important things I’ve done in the past few years was being part of the team that put together the Emmaus strategic plan for the UK federation. I’m now on the planning team looking at how Emmaus will evolve over the next five years, trying to anticipate what will come along. No one could have predicted the pandemic happening and no Emmaus communities, or other organisations for that matter, had that in their plans. Hopefully, this Evolving Emmaus project will mean we’re all in a much stronger place in a few years’ time.

I was supposed to be going to the Emmaus World Assembly in Uruguay in October 2020. I raised the money and would like to reassure everyone who donated that I’ve still got the money and plan to attend the rescheduled event in May 2022. I’d like to thank all the people who donated money to allow me to take part in this event.

Any customers or supporters reading this, a huge thank you for your support during the pandemic and since. You don’t realise that any bit you do – spending a few quid in bric-a-brac or hundreds of pounds buying items of furniture – it all helps and is so appreciated. We see Emmaus Mossley as one big extended family – companions, staff members, volunteers, customers – and we’re so grateful for all the support we receive.

God knows where I’d be without Emmaus and I’m sure most other companions would say the same thing. It’s such a fantastic organisation and I’m sure there are tens of thousands of people around the world who would bear testament to that.