The festive season officially started for The Duchess of Cornwall today as she wished guests at a charity event a “very Merry Christmas.” Camilla also signed a Christmas message for charity Emmaus Greenwich, a community providing formerly homeless people with accommodation, work, and support.
A day after Duchess and her husband, Prince Charles, met with President Trump and other world leaders at a NATO meeting at Buckingham Palace, the Duchess brought a cake to the south London center, which she cut in front of their Christmas tree. Instead of festive fruit cake, this one was made of vanilla, raspberry, and white chocolate and was to help celebrate the charity’s 25th anniversary. Greenwich Emmaus marks the milestone this year and is one of 29 Emmaus communities across the UK helping more than 800 formerly homeless people, known as companions, gain new skills and confidence.
“I’ve visited them all over Britain and wherever I go I come out with the same feeling of being completely uplifted by my visit. They all have the same warm, welcoming atmosphere and that’s what makes Emmaus so unique,” said the Duchess. “I’ve even been to visit an Emmaus in Paris. I took two or three companions from here and we went over on the train to Paris.”
To laughter, she added: “I was forced to make a speech in French. I don’t think anybody probably understood one word of it. But it was nice to see quite what they were doing there.”
The Duchess, who has been patron of Emmaus (UK) since 2006, finished her impromptu remarks by saying: “I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.”
During her visit, Camilla toured the social enterprise where the companions work together to generate revenue to pay for their community. Included is a shop which is open to the public as well as workshops where items can be repaired and upscaled. While wandering around, the Duchess described it as a "wonderful place" and said: "You always have incredible sofas."
She met with Emmaus companion Adam White, from Brighton, who has recently joined Emma's Greenwich after almost six years at Emma's Dover and was in the workshop working on a wooden towel rack. "She seems a very nice lady and we were talking about what I was working on. It's nice of her to make the effort and see how we are and how things are going in the community,” he said of the Duchess.
Tony Bradbury, Chief Executive at Emmaus Greenwich, described Camilla as “warm,” adding she “put people at ease.”
"I think she just likes to talk to people and hear their personal stories," he said. "Homelessness is a growing problem and it's outrageous that we allow it to be growing in our society. Our particular solution is a good one I think in that we allow people to work and that gives them self-esteem and helps them back into mainstream society."
Emmaus Greenwich is based in Plumstead, south east London and was opened in 1994 by Prince Charles and Abbé Pierre, who founded the first Emmaus centre in Paris. Currently the community offers a home to 34 companions, who work both in the main superstore on the community site in Plumstead and in two other shops in the area.
Later in the day Camilla also visited the Fan Museum where she joined a fan making class with a group from the Royal Voluntary Service, one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities.
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