Volunteer’s Stories

Being a volunteer for Home-Start Lambeth is a rewarding experience. Below are a couple of accounts by volunteers:

“I found out about Home-Start while on a confidence building course last December. One of the ladies had said she was on the training course and it helped to improve her parenting skills by teaching different ways to set boundaries. That was the first thing that really got me interested.

She explained how after the course you would also be matched with a family.  My little one has just started nursery and I was at a loss of how to occupy those 3 hours monday to friday, so I filled in the application form just before Christmas and proceeded to forget I had done so.

In January I got called in for an interview and during the interview realised Home-Start and I would be a perfect match. I had been running a stay-n-play at my church for the past two years and also been doing Sunday school for just about as long. I felt the course would really help with my listening skills as well.

On the first day we had a listening exercise and realised I really wasn’t as good a listener as I thought I was. I am happy to say now that 10 months down the line I am well and truly a better listener.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I was ever scared to go into the homes of the families. I can honestly say that everyone is a bit apprehensive about meeting someone new but that’s why you always have a match visit with your supervisor. You are able to talk to them about anything that worries you and they are at the end of a phone if you ever need them. Knowing that gives me the confidence to go into the home and interact with the family and do my role.

What is the role? Well sometimes it’s just sitting and listening for an hour. Other times it’s doing an activity with the children so the parent can get on with other things; or it could be going to an appointment or a children’s centre with the family. The main thing is that the volunteer is there for support.

Remember I mentioned supervisors were at the end of the phone? If something ever happens during a visit they are there to advise you on how to proceed. Even if it’s just passing on information for them to handle.

Would I do this full time if I could?  The answer is yes. It is very rewarding to see the change that can happen in a family by you just giving two hours in your day. The only downside for me has been the “ending” i.e. when the family has been helped and they are no longer in need of Home-Start support.  It is very easy to get attached to the family. What has helped has been talking to the children and explaining 4, 3, 2, and one week before you leave.  Also, writing the family a letter to say goodbye.  Your supervisor is on hand to advise you as well at this time.

I wholeheartedly recommend becoming a volunteer. There are lots of families in Lambeth that could do with just that little bit of assistance.  Even though you might not see a difference for a while there is that one day you walk in and you realise yes, it’s a good thing I became a volunteer, I can see a difference!”

Mariam

“I decided to become a family support volunteer as I have children of my own and I understand that the task of parenting can sometimes be difficult; especially if you are raising them on your own or with little support. I felt that supporting a family would be a good way to give back to the community.

The training I received from Home-Start enabled me to improve upon my listening and communication skills as well as covering the expectations of the role and how best to fulfill them.

My initial feelings before meeting my family were of self doubt and I began to question whether I could really make a difference. But, after talking it through with one of the course co-ordinators, hearing a little about the family and being reminded that they had asked for help; my mind was put at ease.

The first visit was made with the co-ordinator who introduced us, covered a few ground rules and then left us to get acquainted. The visit went very well and time seemed to fly by as I found out about the family and I left feeling happy that we had got off to a good start and arrangements were made for me to visit again.

It took a while after that meeting (3 weeks) before my family agreed to another visit (I was advised that this happens sometimes) and once again things went well and my visits became more regular.

I developed a friendship with this parent who is a single mum with her first child who has a disability. I was able to offer my support by accompanying them to physiotherapy appointments, hospital visits, trips to the park, shopping, helping out in the home or with the baby and being someone to talk to.

She has had many highs and lows throughout the time I have been visiting and I think having someone there who was willing to listen without being judgmental was of great help.

I have been visiting my family for well over a year now and my time of doing so is soon to come to an end. I have found it to be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience because in giving back, my own life has been enriched in terms of renewed confidence and sense of worth.

Volunteering has been a great way for me to offer a helping hand, and knowing that giving up a couple of hours of my time each week could make such a difference to someone else’s life has made it worth the while. It has also acted as a great stepping stone for getting back into work and something I would recommend to anyone who has any reservations about doing it.”

Mauline

“Building on the confidence I felt as a volunteer, it further helped me get back into full time employment, which can be quite daunting after so long away.   It clarified the direction I wanted to take in life and made me realise that I wanted to train professionally as a mental health nurse, specialising in young people and families.  I was able to put the work I have done with Home Start on my CV, as well as provide a reference.   It showed that I had commitment and ability, and I am glad to say that I have been accepted at King’s College, London."

Home-Start Lambeth
Volunteer