Laura Hepburn, a Home-Start volunteerVolunteering with Home-Start has been the strong foundation for me to build a new career in social care.

Shortly after moving to East Lothian, I started my own family, eventually resulting in my return to part-time retail management. But I began to think about my future: I had made the decision that although I had enjoyed my years in retail it wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life and neither was it a family friendly job.

My interest in social care grew alongside insights gained from a good friend who is a social worker and I researched more into the job role and found that it was something that I felt strongly about undertaking.

About this time, a close friend told me that she had started volunteering for Home-Start East Lothian. The more I listened to her experience, the more I realised it was something I’d be interested in; my children were getting older and starting school so I had more time to spare.

It was important for me to gain practical experience so I could be sure that I wold be suited to a social work career.
So in September 2014 I enrolled onto the volunteer preparation course which I really enjoyed. Because it was very new to me I was nervous and unsure about my abilities but the staff were so lovely and supportive. And the training provided me with the confidence and realisation that I had the skills and understanding to support a family.

Having experienced being a mum, with young children, myself – and with no family support - meant I could empathise and understand how difficult and isolating parenting can be.

I was lucky enough to have a strong support network of friends but I’m aware that not everyone has that.

I began my journey by being matched with a family which I found daunting at first. But my confidence grew.

I’m now supporting my third family and I have gained so many skills along the way. As a volunteer you are often focusing on the support that you are giving the family and how you are helping them.

But not to be overlooked is the impact it has on you as the volunteer. I find it highly rewarding and I have learnt so much about myself in addition to having the opportunity to develop my skill set. My volunteering with Home-Start East Lothian motivated me to get on track with my plans for a new career: I applied to college, completed an access course then applied to University of Edinburgh for its Social Work Programme. Now I’ve almost finished the first year of my degree.

Home-Start East Lothian has been a massive part of this journey for me. (Senior Coordinator) Katy, (coordinator) Angela and all the team have been so supportive and helpful. And what is also fantastic is spending time with other volunteers and getting the opportunity to take up other training that supports me in my career. The practical experience is an invaluable support to my studies, having the real life experience to draw on.

Having seen first-hand the positive differences that Home-Start makes in families’ lives, I am very proud to be part of such an amazing, inspiring charity. Going back to university has been a really big challenge for me and I can honestly say that without my Home-Start experience I wouldn’t have had the confidence to realise my potential. I would highly recommend anyone looking to gain experience in working with children and families to consider Home-Start.

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Laura Hepburn volunteers with Home-Start East Lothian. Mum to two boys, aged 8 and 6, she hopes that her degree will enable her to explore opportunities to work in social care with children and families or the elderly, or criminal justice social work.