Home-Start Daventry and South Northants

Giving Children the Best Start in Life

Volunteer Stories

Read our volunteers’ stories. Clare, Julie and Gillian all tell their stories based on their experiences supporting Home-Start families.

Gillian’s Story

I had some free time after retiring and was looking for a new challenge.  I had undertaken voluntary work in the past mostly with adults and teenagers which led me to think that most of their problems later in life stemmed from their early childhood experiences.

Where better to start to help make a difference than with Home-Start. I saw an advert in the local paper and thought ‘why not give it a go’.   The training was excellent, I met new people and the whole experience generally gave me the feeling that I still had something to offer even at my age.

When I started my training nearly five years ago I had recently become a grandmother and the trials and traumas my daughter was going through brought it all back to me.  Of course, parenthood is a joy but it also brings feelings of responsibility, stress and constant tiredness.

Maybe I was a bit naive thinking I could make a big difference to families’ lives but I like to think I have helped a little.  I am now supporting my fourth family.  Each family has been different with its individual challenges which, initially, in some instances seemed a bit daunting but I have found it very rewarding.

Having worked as a volunteer in other organisations I have found that Home-Start Daventry and South Northants comes out top in terms of professionalism, organisation, training and on-going support, keep up the good work!

-Gillian Murray

Julie’s Story

I joined Home-Start after I heard of the great work that is carried out on behalf of vulnerable families in South Northants.   When I considered the fact that I did indeed have two hours a week to spare to make a difference in a family’s life I needed no persuading.  I enjoyed the training – I was so impressed by the professionalism of the team and the quality of the training that we all received.  I also really enjoyed being part of a team of volunteers, something I hadn’t been able to tap into for a while since I’d been a mum at home for over 10 years previously.

I was allocated to my first family and although it had its challenges I really enjoyed it.  It was great getting alongside someone to offer practical help and encouragement.  The relationship with the children steadily grew too and they would fly excitedly to the door to see me and delve into the library books which I usually brought and read with them.  I had been with Home-Start for just over 18 months when my husband lost his job for the second time in a year and it became clear that I would have to go and find myself a paid job.

I hadn’t been in the job marketplace for a long time so it was quite a daunting prospect knowing where to start.  What I did conclude pretty quickly was this: that working with Home-Start had awakened an interest in social care and it was in this sector that I really wanted to find a part-time job if possible.  Quite a change for an ex Advertising Executive from London!  I applied for a job as a Rehab Assistant working with brain injured adults – a very vulnerable group of people indeed and was delighted to get the job.  I certainly drew on my experiences with Home-Start both in the interview and on the application form and was able to use Home-Start as a referee also.  I’m thoroughly enjoying my new job, sad that I had to step down from Home-Start, but very glad of the experience I had through it.  I’m pretty sure that I would not have made the move into the social care sector if I hadn’t volunteered with Home-Start even though this was not the reason I started.  So in more ways than one my experience with the organisation has been incredibly worthwhile and to be highly recommended for those who are considering volunteering.

-Julie Holland

Clare's Story

I became a Home-Start volunteer in 2006. I had been a stay at home Mum for 10 years and felt that it was time not only to get back out into the world, but also to use some of the knowledge I had acquired from being a Mum, and from working with young children before I had started a family.

For these reasons Home-Start was ideal for me. I had experienced, either first or second hand, many of the problems that Home-Start families were going through and therefore felt I had something I could offer to really help these families.  I knew from being a Mum with young children that often what is needed is simply a supportive, empathic ear and shoulder to cry on and I felt that I would be able to provide this kind of support.

The three families that I have supported have all had very different needs but I hope that I have been able to help them all in some way. After ending my time with my first family I found that I had gained enough confidence in my abilities to be able to go back to college so I took a part time Access course. After two years at college I applied to university.  My college tutors, once hearing that I was a Home-Start volunteer, were very keen that I mentioned this as part of my University application letter as they thought that this was just the sort of thing that would improve my chances of getting a place on the Psychology course that I was applying for. Sure enough I was offered a place starting September 2010.

Once at university I was offered a selection of elective modules one of which was a volunteering module. This meant that I could continue with Home-Start as the module required that I completed 100 hours of volunteering in order to pass. Home-Start were very accommodating of this and found me a family that I could support within my time constraints. I really have enjoyed working with this family and it is really lovely that they could help me whilst I was helping them.

Sadly my time with Home-Start will have to come to an end very soon. I am about to start my second year at university and my timetable allows me very little free time. Add on to that the demands of two teenage boys, one of whom is just about to start his GCSE years whilst the other has just started a college course, and it becomes impossible for me to offer enough time to be able to help and support a family. I am very grateful for the time I have spent with Home-Start. I feel that both the organisation and the families I have supported have enabled me to develop my skills and have given me the confidence to go on to achieve my full potential in this world. I very much hope one day to return to Home-Start in some capacity.

– Clare Phillips

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