Lockdown affected us all, in different ways. Some loved the peace and isolation, whilst many struggled with home schooling, lack of outside space, not seeing loved ones, to say nothing of the horrific daily news, when the virus was at its height.

I am a volunteer at Emmaus Village Carlton, and I have now been ‘back’ for eight weeks, but staff worked throughout to support companions and keep Emmaus going until they could safely re-open.

Although we were all kept well informed of developments on site, I wondered what life had been like for staff and companions through lock down. I should say that staff are not resident at Emmaus, but they kept working and coping with their own fears of ‘what if’?

Angela, the Chief Officer admitted life had been ‘scary’ at the beginning. ‘Everything was moving so fast, and there was an overload of information.’ It soon became clear that everyone felt vulnerable and anxious about their own health, and that of loved ones.

The regular weekly meeting for companions, was supplement by regular information bulletins. One of the companions I spoke to felt this had been the single factor in helping him to feel involved and supported by the organisation.

The reality of keeping more than 30 companions, fed, watered, busy and as safe as possible was daunting. Angela and the staff provided routine and structure. A lot of renovations took place across the site, (have you seen the Bistro and Bric-a-Brac yet?) no doubt helped by lovely weather and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Companions reported a lowering of their stress levels, so the decision was taken to reduce the number of trading days from six to five. With all companions having the day off on Monday it gives an opportunity for companions to do something as a group. Tuesdays are used to re-stock and prepare for the days open to the public.

Another companion said to me that they had missed the public coming in and, although there are obvious challenges caused by the virus, generally the companions are enjoying being back at work. Many take a huge pride in the service they offer to customers and are proud of the efforts made to keep everyone safe.

We are always being told, quite rightly, that the virus is still very much with us. Sometimes, the restrictions can seem tedious to all of us, but the team has done a brilliant job of re-organising the site and deserve big congratulations and support. When you go to Emmaus, you will be asked to wear a mask, sanitise your hands, give details if you are eating in the bistro, but it’s all to keep you, and the community safe.

So much work has gone into all of this; yes, to give the virus the heave-ho, but also so that visitors will enjoy the shops and the bistro in the way they are used to, in a safe and friendly environment.

Please go and have a look for yourselves, and enjoy.

Kathy Carter
Emmaus Village Carlton Volunteer