The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norfolk-based charity celebrates third birthdayEmmausShopCF450

Emmaus Norwich, a locally based charity that supports formally homeless people by providing them a home and work, is celebrating its birthday this month. 

Emmaus is a worldwide charity that provides a home and meaningful employment for those who have had the misfortune to become homeless.  The residents are called Companions and regain their self-worth through the work they do in creating an economically, self-supporting community. 

The Emmaus Norwich Community currently has 5 companions, and an ambitious building refurbishment project, scheduled for completion by the end of this year, means that they will be able to expand to 23.  

The community owes its origin to the Sisters of All Hallows in Ditchingham.  Seeing the vision of Emmaus they gave up 4 acres of their beautiful grounds, a sizeable, impressive convent building and school building to provide a home and retail business for those who have previously experienced homelessness.

Cathy Hembry, community leader, said, “In order to provide training and development opportunities and be financially self –supporting we have set up an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of secondhand furniture, bric-a-brac, clothing, books, DVDs and CDs etc.  Initially this was open afternoons only but to cope with increased demand our shop is now open from 10.00am to 4.30pm five days a week. (Closed on Sundays and Mondays.)  A car park for 35 cars is being built to cope with this extra demand.  An arrangement to sell through Looses Emporium, Magdalen Street, in Norwich is about to start and we have other Enterprises planned for the future”  

Over the past year a mutually beneficial arrangement has been established with Hollesey Bay Prison volunteers whereby 3 prisoners are chosen who are close to completing their sentence for day release to work under community supervision on various projects.  So far they have painted the outside of the premises, carried out property maintenance, restored a large Summer House and built a run for chickens.
The Companions have established a self-service Cafe and an outside seating area and are supported with cakes baked daily by the Ditchingham Women’s Institute.  One of the Companions has taken on grounds management, which includes lawns, the orchard, flower beds and a pond.  There are plans to develop a new allotment for fruit and vegetables for next year and soon there will be free range chickens.

This means the menu for the companions, staff and volunteers will be more exciting and certainly healthier, and completion of the building refurbishment will give the opportunity to develop a Bistro Cafe using local produce and East Anglian recipes!  

Cathy added, “In the next month an important new appointment will be made of Deputy Community Leader.  We are looking to appoint a person who has experience in retail and in working with disadvantaged communities.”

There are now 22 volunteers who take on work such as driving the van to collect donated goods, office management, electrical testing of equipment, sorting out books, clothes and other donated items, working on the display of all goods for sale and giving advice on pricing items for sale.  Emmaus Norwich are keen to recruit more volunteers, especially for van driving and those with retailing experience, and would ask for anyone who is interested to get in touch.

The community are very keen to receive donations, and with a large van will arrange to pick up goods promptly.  In giving to the community you will be helping to support the community business and the environment too as they recycle whatever they do not sell.

To contact the community either phone 01986 895444, email or visit

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