The Helston based Citizenship for Life program is now in its second year. Building on the success of last years program, 12 more young people are taking part. This year it includes schools from the Lizard and Falmouth/Penryn area. Like last year the aim of the program is to inspire, motivate and allow the participants to experience different aspects of life and work in and outside of Cornwall. Each participant has a one-to-one mentor drawn from business, local government, military, public sector and volunteers.
During the twelve month period the program runs, the participants in the program visit various places. The recent visit was to the homeless charity, Emmaus. The motto of Emmaus is certainly thought-provoking, and makes it clear the charity is not about handouts. The often easily solution, but does not really solve the issues of homelessness. That motto is proudly displayed on the wall in the centre:
The UK patron of this charity is Terry Waite. Terry made himself available throughout the visit and was on hand to answer any question the young people (and adults) asked. The informal, but very powerful way he spoke of Emmaus and his past experiences certainly made a huge impact on everyone due to the responses everyone gave post the visit. It really made them think about homeless, and how they could easily find themselves in the same situation during their lifetime.
We were shown around the centre, by a few of the Companions, who had come to the centre when life was at rock bottom. They all said how much it had changed their lives, and how now they are standing on their own, in their own place and feeling part of society again. This was a very important message, as if you want someone to be part of society, they have to feel they are.
Emmaus is not about handouts, as when you become a Companion you have to stop claiming the dole. You also have to work, in either the shop which sells new and second-hand items; or doing something in the community. The work you do is also paid; with some of this pay put aside for you for when you have got your life heading in the right direction and helping to you get started again.
The young people when asked about the visit gave some truly remarkable answers from what they had learnt at Emmaus. Here are some of their responses:
Jennie – “I know of a homeless man in Helston and I used to think it was his own fault that he was in that situation, like a drug or drink problem, but I now actually wonder why he is homeless and if he is okay. I have learned not to stereotype anymore.
Hayd’n – “In the media and on the streets you only hear or see the bad things about homelessness. Homeless people have a hard time and its easy to see why they would choose a life of crime, it’s easier! Emmaus made me see the good things and how they can help homeless people change and do some good with their lives.”
Rhys – “Before this trip I knew that making fun of homeless people was wrong but before today I did not know how much homeless people do within Emmaus and how much they want to get back into ‘normal’ life.”
I have to say, the visit to Emmaus is one of the most thought-provoking I have ever done. The visit and listening to Terry Waite and the Companion’s made you sit up and take notice of just some of the problems in our society. The model of the organisation is different, but from what I saw it really works. I summed it up when asked about the visit:
“Emmaus gives self-esteem and respectability back to homeless people; soup and a roll are great, but you need more than that to integrate people back into society”
If you can take a little time to have a look at the Emmaus website, and see if you can help in anyway
Terry Waite, Companions, Staff, and the Citizen for Life young people and mentors