Walkers who experienced homelessness now embarking on 450-mile fundraising pilgrimage

This Summer, residents from homelessness charity Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney are walking for six weeks from St David’s in Wales to the charity’s home in Ditchingham, South Norfolk to help end homelessness.

Chloe (pictured above), Carlton, Jagger & Peter, alongside Emmaus’ CEO, Cecile Roberts are taking on this extraordinary journey, The Walk of Kindness, to support more people out of homelessness. 

The pilgrimage, following the path of the newly formed Via Beata, spans the widest part of the country and totals approximately 450 miles. The team sets off from Wales on Monday 26th August and will be returning to South Norfolk on Thursday 10th October, World Homeless Day, walking roughly 10 miles a day. The charity wants to raise vital funds and awareness for the increasing number of people facing poverty, isolation, housing insecurity, and homelessness. 

Chloe, Carlton, Jagger & Peter have all received support from Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney and now want to help others who are without a home. Emmaus communities provide more than just a bed for the night; they offer a reason to get out of it in the morning. The secular organisation offers residents, known to the charity as companions, with a home and community for as long as needed. Companions also receive therapeutic support, work, and training opportunities to help re-build their confidence, self-esteem, and independence. The charity is based in the 19th century All Hallows Convent and is dedicated to preserving the heritage of its historical site while creating new opportunities for people who have experienced trauma and homelessness. 

Chloe, a companion, and a member of the walking team shares: “Before Emmaus, I wasn’t living, I was just existing. I started drinking at the age of 11 and it all spiralled from there. All I could think about was getting the next drink. I lost track of days and hours and eventually ended up living in my car. I’ve got a home now at Emmaus, I’ve got a bed, I’ve got people and family – everyone at Emmaus has become my family. 

“I’m really looking forward to the walk. I want to give back to the place that’s given me so much. I want to learn lots along the way from people we meet, reflect on the past few years of my life, and raise lots of money for Emmaus!”

The Walk of Kindness comes at a time when rough sleeping figures are continually increasing, an estimated 3,898 people slept rough in 2023, an annual increase of 27% – the largest rise since 2015 (Gov.UK, Feb 2024). Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney are experiencing increased demand for their services with more and more people struggling without a place to call home. 

To enable the charity to grow and support more people, it plans to open a new social enterprise Bed & Breakfast within the 19th century convent site where the charity is based. Once open, the annual income from one B&B room will provide someone who has experienced homelessness with a home and support package in Emmaus for a whole year.

Emmaus will use the funds raised through the Walk of Kindness to open the B&B and as a member of an international movement against poverty, the charity will also donate a small proportion of the funds to other Emmaus projects that will empower people across Africa, South America, Europe, and the UK. 

Cecile Roberts, CEO of Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, is also taking on the Walk of Kindness and says: “The Bed and Breakfast is going to transform the work we can do at Emmaus, we’ll be able to offer more diverse training and work opportunities for existing companions and have the income to welcome new people into our community and out of homelessness. 

“The Walk of Kindness is going to be a really special journey. I think The Walk of Kindness is something we all need now, when more of us are experiencing loneliness, isolation and mental health issues. We’d love to see the public join our tribe by taking part in our fundraising challenges and coming together to support our companions along the way!” 

Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney are inviting supporters to sponsor each mile of the 450-mile journey, ranging from 1p,10p £1, £10 or £100 per mile.

The public can also get involved by signing up to virtual and in-person fundraising challenge events via emmausnorfolkandwaveney.enthuse.com

Find out more about the Walk of Kindness and sign-up to a fundraising challenge on Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney’s website: emmaus.org.uk/norfolk-waveney