ScotlandOur local Home-Starts across Scotland support over 3000 families and nearly 6000 children very year. Our local community network of over 1000 trained volunteers work with families from before birth through to school age offering compassionate, confidential help to parents when they need us most. Our focus is on enabling parents and carers to be the warm, consistent and nurturing adults they want to be so that their children get the best possible start in life. Starting in the home our approach is as individual as the people we are helping – on most days of the week you will find teams of great parent to parent supporters involved in activities as diverse as offering one to one support around perinatal mental health problems, increasing breastfeeding through local support groups, getting children outdoors through gardening and messy play days, tackling the attainment gap in partnership with schools, bringing lonely or isolated parents together to forge new friendships and getting dads involved in antenatal workshops. Home-Start in Scotland brings the Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach to life by bringing family support to the parents and carers who need it most because childhood can’t wait. volunteer our work Contact us in Edinburgh Everyone needs a friend June 1stI’m kicking off this Home-Start blog for Volunteers’ Week by stating the obvious: being a parent is very hard work: physically, mentally and emotionally. Perhaps because of the intense dependency of babies and preschoolers, perhaps because you’re not generally told beforehand how hard it’s going to be, it can come as a shock. It was a shock to me. There was plenty of chat in antenatal classes about how hard labour was going to be, but nothing about how the real hard work starts once you get your baby home! To be fair, my first baby was pretty much a text-book experience. I had post-natal depression, but she was an easy baby and didn’t even particularly bother herself with the Terrible Twos phase. I sometimes forget that as the memories blur into my experience with babies two and three, who were, well, “not textbook” is probably the best way to describe it here. So when I found out about Home-Start a few years later, I knew that it would have been a huge help to me if I’d known about it when my children were little. Home-Start is all about managing life with your young children. It’s about acknowledging that parenting can be tough even in the best of circumstances; and the best of circumstances includes a solid family and friends support network, good health and no financial pressures. With even one of these factors absent, it’s easy to fall off the rails. If a parent falls off the rails, the children will be affected. The very appealing thing for me about Home-Start is that volunteers are not there to fix problems as such, but to make living through them just that bit easier. There are many professionals (in varying degrees of availability!) to help young families with health, financial or other challenges, and such services are vital. But they may not be quite enough. Everyone needs a friend, someone they can talk to informally and just share life’s experiences. Talking to a sympathetic friend is a great way to get perspective on your problems. I think this lovely friendship quote encapsulates the Home-Start service: “Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead. Walk beside me… just be my friend.” Volunteer stories Helen-Jane Shearer lives in central Scotland. She has just completed the Home-Start Volunteer Training Course, and having survived the preschool and primary school years with her three children, is now looking forward to supporting other families through that time.