As a website design company, we often work with clients all over the UK.
In spite of this, we have always felt like a local company, more than just having our offices located here. Most of our employees live in Colchester and many were born in the area, and we are regularly the first port of call for local companies looking for a new website.
Because of this, we have always been passionate about the local area and supporting the culture, businesses and people of Colchester. So recently, to give a little back, we’ve been looking for a charity that really makes a difference to the town, who we could offer our support to.
One charity that stood out for us was the Colchester branch of Emmaus – an organisation we felt truly made an impact in the area, yet could greatly benefit from the services we could offer them.
Although a lot of Colchester locals might recognise the name from their High Street shops, many won’t understand what the organisation is or how they actually operate. Emmaus is a charity formed in France after the Second World War, which attempts to not only give shelter to homeless people, but also give them the opportunity to work and find their way back into regular society.
Despite being formed by a French priest, the charity is entirely secular and now operates in a range of countries around the world, helping people of all nationalities, races and religions.
Recently, a few of us were given a tour of the shops, warehouses and living accommodation run by Emmaus in Colchester and it was astounding to see both the scope and the value of the work that they do.
Currently, up to around thirty people can be accommodated, giving them a room, food and an allowance, where otherwise they would be sleeping on the street. In return, the companions, as they’re known, work and run all the day to day operations in the Emmaus shops.
There are two Emmaus shops on Colchester High Street, as well two enormous warehouse style shops on Osborne Road. The shops rely on items donated by the public, however with a fleet of vans for the collection and delivery of purchases, they contain an unrivalled variety of stock. From vintage LPs and skiing equipment to solid oak drawers and musical instruments, if you’re after a unique, retro find or just a second hand bargain, the likelihood is Emmaus will have something to tempt you.
Not only do the companions work in the shops themselves, but they also run the fleet of vans and even refurbish donate furniture in order to turn them into authentic, shabby chic bargains.
Through this program, Emmaus are able to give many individuals not only just shelter, but vital work experience, through which they are able to generate the money vital to sustain the charity. The companions are also offered the the stepping stone of shared self contained flats throughout the town run, as well funds saved on their behalf for rental deposits on their leaving the accommodation.
As with many charities, Emmaus often finds it increasingly hard to break even while continuing to help so many people, especially in the midsts of vast governmental funding cuts. Over the next 6 to 12 months, we are looking to work closely with Emmaus on a monthly basis to help them in any way that we can.
Our aim is to offer our services as a full-service digital agency in order to assist them with their website, marketing activities, point-of-sale (POS) displays in their shops, general business advice, and also strategic activities such as branding of their individual shops or new ways of attracting donors.
Whether it is fighting the stigma that is associated with homelessness and gaining support for Emmaus, or helping the online promotion of their shops and products in order to increase their income, we hope that we can help them continue to make a difference in the community.