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Terry Waite and Louis De Bernieres on a visit to the Emmaus centre, Ditchingham, Norfolk. Terry Waite and Louis De Bernieres with some of the residents of the centre and chairman Brian Day (right). Picture: Nick Butcher
By RICHARD WOOD
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Former hostage Terry Waite visited a community of homeless people yesterday who are working to rebuild their own lives.
Mr Waite took a tour around the Emmaus Norwich Community, in Ditchingham, near Bungay, as he saw how the charity’s latest community was establishing itself.
The former Lebanon hostage was joined by Norfolk writer Louis de Bernières as the two of them spoke to those who are helping themselves to become self sufficient.
The group of seven residents – known as companions – have been living and working together at the former All Hallows convent and last month celebrated their first day selling donated furniture and bric-a-brac.
Mr Waite, president of Emmaus UK, said the group was helping to serve the wider community and he had seen first hand how this had made a big difference to lives nationwide.
“They don’t receive charity, they come here to work and get back into life,” he said. “There is a lack of opportunity in society and giving handouts is no answer.
“We have got to provide an opportunity for people to develop their own talents and abilities.”
Mr Waite first became involved in the group after being asked by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie
“The former archbishop asked me to be involved as, through my experience in captivity he felt I understood the margins of life,” he said.
“Many people on the margins of life have been on the streets for a variety of reasons and this is an opportunity for them to get back on their feet.”
Mr de Bernières said he liked that the companions were expected to make their own way forward.
“I have been unemployed and seen how easy it can be to get into a difficult situation and see how you can’t get out. Places like this help in a constructive way,” he said.
The Emmaus Norwich Community was established at the former convent buildings to offer homeless people the chance to work and live together away from drugs or alcohol. It currently has seven companions but it is hoped it will be able support 25.
One of those enjoying their time there is Lawrence O’Sullivan, who was at Emmaus St Albans for four months before helping to set up the new community.
Mr O’Sullivan, 50, said he had been living rough in London before hearing of the community.
“There was no structure in my life but doing this I feel really good again,” he said.
The group’s secondhand outlet is open from 10am to 4pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
To donate household items contact 01986 895444 or firstname.lastname@example.org