The best way of describing the team Emmaus Suffolk is to say that they are lifesavers. They have completely changed my life.

I first started visiting Emmaus Suffolk in 2018. I had virtually been locked away at home for three years before, struggling with anxiety brought on by a family bereavement and the effects of Fibromyalgia which forced me to close the beauty salon I owned.  I am mum to four grown up children, and have grandchildren now too, so I have always been active and busy, but I found myself not wanting to leaved the house. I was feeling incredibly low.

I live just down the road from Emmaus Suffolk, so I made it my goal to walk to the shop once a week for a chat and a coffee with the volunteers there. Everyone was always so friendly and welcoming, and there was always someone to talk to.

I met a volunteer there called Jude who persuaded me to join as a volunteer too.  At first I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but Jude and the staff team offered me support, including some counselling services, and it put me on the right road to recovery.

Since being with the team at Emmaus Suffolk I have completed some training courses, including a customer service and retail course accredited by Derby College and an NVQ Level 2 in Mental Health Awareness.

As well as volunteering in the shops and café I really enjoyed joining in with all the activities, including the arts and craft and sewing. I have always sewn, and as money was tight when my children were younger, I would make their clothes for them. This hobby soon turned into a production line at Emmaus Suffolk, and last year we started making bibs and children’s clothes to sell in the  charity shops, as well as masks and scrubs for people to use throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We even started making eco-products such as reusable sandwich bags, wax wraps and reusable face wipes which were really popular.

The products were selling so well that in 2020 Emmaus Suffolk supported Jude and I to turn our hobby into a business. The charity provided us with our own workspace in the Emmaus Suffolk unit and gave us a grant to buy equipment, including an overlocker. They have also provided us with second-hand sewing machines and have helped us to service our existing machines. We also source our materials from the shop, using donated bedding and fabric to make our products.

We sell some of the items we create back to Emmaus Suffolk at a low price so they can sell them in their shops and make money for the charity, but we also products on to other people via our Facebook page. We are delighted to say that an independent shop in Woodbridge will also be stocking our items.

Becoming a volunteer 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. There’s always someone there to talk to, I smile more now, and I properly laugh.

I didn’t think being part of the Emmaus Suffolk team would change my life so much, and when I was in my darkest place I didn’t expect to be able to do all the things I am now doing. It has given me so much confidence, the staff believe in you and totally support you to achieve big things.