“I’ve been a trustee for Emmaus Dover for two years now, but my work with them actually started in about 2013, when I worked in Neighbourhood & Community policing for the Port of Dover. My work brought me into a lot of contact with rough sleepers and, particularly at that time, rough sleepers who were not UK nationals and in a pretty desperate situation.
When I left the Port of Dover to join the National Cathedral Constabulary, I knew I didn’t want to stop working with Emmaus, so I carried on with different projects there. Then in 2019, I was very fortunate to receive a Hidden Heroes award, which cemented my role as a police liaison for the charity. It was actually one of the companions (a formerly homeless person now living and working in the Emmaus Dover community) who suggested I stood for the Board of Trustees.
Before the pandemic, I’d visit the community often. In the old days, I’d drive up to Archcliffe Fort on duty in my police vehicle, sometimes I’d turn up on my day off, or with my husband to buy a coffee table (my husband and I have practically furnished our homes from everything we’ve bought at Emmaus Dover). I was much more present and visible then, but now we have to be more measured and I haven’t found that an easy transition.
The companions and staff at Emmaus Dover have been there for me as much as I’ve been there for them. They’re very good friends of mine. During a difficult period in my life not so long ago, I went up to the community to see Debs, Emmaus Dover’s Community Leader. I’d had some surgery which meant I might have to seriously rethink my career path. As it turned out, I was able to remain in policing, but I remember getting quite emotional with Debs and some of the companions there. It was just that feeling of support. They wanted to go and make me a cup of tea, and that was really touching.
The companions are not people who just think about themselves, they’re constantly looking to volunteer and add value to other people’s lives. It’s something that keeps me invested in Emmaus. I also think it’s one of the few places where you can literally see a transformation of someone’s life in a relatively short space of time. In fact, two of the best experiences of my policing career have involved Emmaus.
Some years ago, I was on duty as Protest Liaison Officer for the Port of Dover and I saw a supermarket delivery van trying to get past a protest that had started that day. Through the crowds, he wound down his window and shouted, ‘Dave?’. It was a former companion who had managed to get accommodation and a job through association with Emmaus. They’d basically changed his life.
Then last year, I was on duty during the graduation ceremonies at Canterbury Cathedral when a chap who looked vaguely familiar caught my eye. He was another former companion, and through Emmaus he’d been able to get independent housing and support his daughter through university. Tears were shed on both sides. It was just another example where Emmaus had been instrumental in turning someone’s life around.
For anyone thinking about becoming a trustee for Emmaus Dover, I’d say think about what skills could you bring and what you could help them achieve. You have to see an Emmaus community to really understand what it is and what it represents. Emmaus Dover is like its own little village, with places to shop, eat, live and work. That’s the unique thing about it, I think.
My work with Emmaus Dover is a part of my policing career that I will look back on with the greatest pride, greatest satisfaction and greatest fulfilment. Going there is a bit like going home and always has been. In some ways, I feel more like a companion than anything else.”