Charity? To me it’s just being human

Mar 08, 2016

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A day in the life of Simon Grainge, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK . . .

Early this morning, as I walked through the centre of Manchester on my way to work. I noticed two guys emerging from a shop doorway where they had clearly spent a cold and miserable night.

In the doorway was the detritus from their stay - empty bottles, burger boxes, newspapers and a filthy blanket. The two of them set off along the street with a purposeful air, no doubt in search of alcohol to make the prospect of another day on the street a little more bearable.

The street was busy with other people also walking with a sense of purpose - to get to work. Like a shoal of fish, people swerved around the two homeless guys keeping a safe distance as if they were predators. The people going to work looked uncomfortable in the presence of the two guys who were oblivious to all around them.

The two were not isolated cases, the numbers of homeless people living on the street are rising by the day, just take a walk in any city and see for yourself.

Later that morning I arrived at an Emmaus community for my meeting. Here, 30 formerly homeless people live, work and support each other to regain a sense of purpose to their lives. I was met by Bruce, one of the companions (residents) who I have got to know over many years and consider my friend. He is busy serving customers in the secondhand furniture shop and answering the phone to enquirers but sets aside a little time to ask me how I am and catch up on news. Not so long ago, he would have had similar experiences to the two guys I had seen earlier. I couldn't help but reflect on the difference.

"Harry says that he used to bring buildings back to life, now he does it with people."

Simon Grainge, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK
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Emmaus companions at work in their restaurant

I then met Harry, the community leader who used to have his own building company but then volunteered at Emmaus before finally becoming a member of staff. Harry says that he used to bring buildings back to life, now he does it with people.

After my meeting, I join the companions for lunch, a brew and a chat before they get back to work. I am left to reflect on what I have seen.

Emmaus is a charity. Does it do any good? Judge for yourself. The government doesn't care about homeless people, the general public don't know how to do anything about it, so who will help people like the two I saw this morning?

Emmaus is able to do its work because of the many thousands of wonderful donors who believe in what we do. It's a charity that allows guys like Bruce to rebuild their lives and people like Harry to make a real difference.

To me personally, it’s nothing to do with ‘charity’, it’s just being human.

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