What does it take to be a Home-Start Volunteer?By Julie Spencer
September 20, 2012
Parents who know the stresses and strains of bringing up children could help support families in need.
JULIE SPENCER found out what it takes to be a Home-Start volunteer.
The only qualification you need to be a Home-Start volunteer is to be a parent yourself – and the willingness to help make a difference to a struggling family.
Volunteers are not there to tell parents how to bring up children, but to offer support when times are tough.
Wokingham district co-ordinator Mandy Ozficici says: “I was an estate agent and have three children who are at school now – I started as a volunteer.
“We find our volunteers are those who have had a very good time bringing up their children or those who had a difficult time and are past that stage and want to give something back.”
The Wokingham branch’s 33 volunteers visit 36 families in their own homes, with another 15 attending regular meetings at the Rainbow Centre in Winnersh.
Mandy says: “We have two dads who volunteer. One helps a single mum with her older son by taking him out.
“More and more families are hearing about us from health visitors and I think people need us as the stresses of everyday life are growing.”
To qualify for Home-Start support you must have one child under five and be experiencing difficulty.
Some of the mothers have health issues, including post-natal depression, or are isolated from their own extended families.
In other families, long-term illnesses or conditions of a child have placed strains on the parents and siblings.
The scheme has Lottery funding and is supported by BBC Children in Need and Wokingham Borough Council. More volunteers are needed to keep up with demand.
Volunteers visit families in their own homes once a week for up to three hours to provide practical help with children and emotional support and friendship to the parents.
A simple act like playing with a child while the mother does the housework, or taking the children to the park, can relieve much of the stress that can destroy family life.
Volunteers attend a 40-hour training course over 10 weeks and are then matched to families and receive regular support.
New volunteer Sarah says being a parent has been the most rewarding experience of her life.
One of her three children has a severe physical disability and she knows that parenting can be isolating, frightening and incredibly hard work.
Sarah says: “When I heard about Home-Start I realised it was a way I could use some of my own experiences to help families going through difficult times.
“I was really encouraged by the welcome and found the preparation course a really useful way of exploring the issues I may come across as a volunteer.
If you are a parent who feels you could help a young family contact Angie, Lindsay or Mandy at Home-Start Wokingham on (0118) 988 8025 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.