Building relationship starts with respect, trust

In the lead up to Pope Francis’s World Day of the Poor on Sunday, November 17, the Church in Australia is focussing on the many volunteers who work daily to help the poor in their communities. Read how Perth’s Kelvin McConville helps homeless men and women with a mental illness gain independence through his volunteer work with the Emmaus Community.

Retired psychiatric unit worker Kelvin McConville loves his volunteer work with the Emmaus Community, where he helps homeless men and women who suffer from a mental illness.

The Emmaus Community provides long-term independent community living for people of adult age who live with mental health issues.

“One of the reasons I volunteer at Emmaus is because my mum suffered from a mental illness, so I completely understand the stigma behind this and the need for education,” he said.

“Emmaus really helps people who have fallen into poverty or homelessness because of their mental illness – either depression or anxiety. Mental illness can cause job losses and dependency problems.”

Kelvin said the team at Emmaus builds up trust with community members by attending various medical appointments and helping with shopping and day trips.

“There’s also a deep respect – community members are our brothers and sisters. The biggest thing as a volunteer is actually building rapport and trust,” he explained.

“I’ve been volunteering three days a week for over six months now and it’s a joy to be there. And at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve contributed through helping.

“Even though I’m 64, you are always learning things.”

Kelvin says Emmaus, in providing support to more than 50 men and women of varying ages, “helps to stop the revolving door of psychiatric hospital”.

“It’s just wonderful; it really is.”

Emmaus started in 1996 as an informal drop-in centre, and was set up out of the need for people living with mental illness to have some form of ongoing emotional support after leaving crisis care.

It now has 11 houses and is sponsored through LifeLink by the Archdiocese of Perth.

To find out how to volunteer and help people in your community living in poverty, contact your local parish office.