Emmaus Cambridge’s 30th anniversary open day celebrates a new start for 2,000 ex-homeless companions
Around 1,500 people enjoyed Emmaus Cambridge’s 30th anniversary open day on Saturday, which offered visitors music, speeches, poetry, food and tours of the grounds and buildings at the the 18-acre organic farm.
The Landbeach-based charity was set up in 1991 by Selwyn Image to help formerly homeless people rebuild their lives. Originally it was just two derelict buildings in a field: the site was worked on by volunteers, and the residents, known as ‘companions’, moved into a couple of caravans on site later that year. Today the site houses 44 residents who live and work on the site, and more than 2,000 once-homeless people have made use of the organisation’s services since it opened.
Events kicked off at midday with a spoken-word performance of poetry by former Emmaus companion Seamus Fox, which was followed by some rhythm’n’blues by The Frigidaires, a tour of the bees in the grounds an, at 1pm, a speech by Terry Waite CBE, president of Emmaus UK, and a writer, broadcaster and former Middle East hostage.
He said: “People who’ve been really down on their luck, who’ve been wandering the streets, sometimes for years, have come in here and have changed their lives because they’ve been given an opportunity.
“And that’s what Emmaus does. Gives people an opportunity.”
Founder Selwyn Image followed on the stage, as guests enjoyed the site’s facilities which included a BBQ, a tea tent and the celebrated Joan’s Coffee Shop cafe, which sells Emmaus’ own-brand coffee.
The open day was a chance to go behind the scenes and tour some of the companion-only areas, usually off-limits to the public. Walking round the site, it’s obvious that the team works incredibly hard to develop drop-off services (for clothes, furniture, records, books and other items) and also to design and make new buildings from scratch, usually in wood and built to a very high standard by maintenance manager John Baker and his crew.
Emmaus Cambridge’s Tara Constable said: “Our 30th birthday was a huge success with everyone coming together to celebrate our community and all that we have achieved over the last 30 years.
“On Saturday our community welcomed so many wonderful supporters, some who had supported our community from the very beginning, when our community was simply barns and fields, to new supporters who were visiting our community for the first time! Our ‘behind the scenes’ tours allowed supporter to really understand the foundations of our community, which is, to provide a home and meaningful work to those who need it most.
“Saturday was a day to celebrate all the memories that have been created over three decades as a community and we look forward to seeing what the next 30 years have in store for us.”
Today, Emmaus Cambridge is one of 29 communities around the UK, all supporting people to rebuild their lives after homelessness.
Here’s to the next 30 years!