Home-Start volunteers offer non-judgmental, compassionate support to parents with young families. For a window into this world, read Nalini Patel's 'Week in the life of a Home-Start volunteer'.

Nalini volunteers with Home-Start Horizons

“I’ve been a health visitor for over 25 years in Leicester. In that time, I’ve referred many families to Home-Start. When I retired from my job, it felt natural to use some of my free time to volunteer for Home-Start. Since the volunteering training, I’ve supported six families. I’ve been supporting my current family for over a year.

MONDAY

The family I support speak very little English, so I was matched with them because I speak Gujarati. I visit them every Monday morning at their small bedsit in the city. Their accommodation is poor, with mould growing on the walls.

Not to mention they are also completely overcrowded now they have twins. Home-Start Horizons is supporting their application to be rehoused. Mum greets me with a warm smile and invites me in. She is always telling me how I’m giving her confidence, and over the last few weeks, I’ve seen her become so much more independent. I play with one twin while mum baths the other and then we swap.

By playing with the babies I hope it will give the mum ideas on how to interact and stimulate the twins. After play we take one child each and give them a bottle. The two hours is soon up and I say goodbye.

TUESDAY

It’s been a busy morning administering Covid-19 vaccinations. As a registered nurse, giving vaccinations felt like something I could do to help the country’s response to the pandemic. I have some lunch and then call my co-ordinator to discuss the family’s living situation. The family cook, sleep, live and play in one room. It’s very hard for them and will only worsen as the twins get older.

It’s also a very cold bedsit, and with winter fast approaching, I’m hoping they can be rehoused soon.

WEDNESDAY

The family I’m supporting only have one cot that the twins share, but they’re outgrowing it. It’s really important babies sleeping arrangements are safe, so I’m delighted to hear that I can go to the baby bank and pick up a cot. My husband comes with me to help carry it to our car. We pick a few bags of clothes and deliver it to the family.

Usually when I visit on a Monday the dad is at work, but today he’s at home so it’s nice to catch up with him. When I first started visiting them, they were very low on funds. Dad was on a low income so I encouraged them to apply for universal credit. I helped them with the application and explained the paperwork they needed.

THURSDAY

Today I visit my own mum who is 78. I always make sure to see her at least once a week. Spending time with family is the most precious thing you can do, and it reminds me why I get so much from being a volunteer and helping families.

We pass by the nursery that the twins will hopefully go to soon. The family are entitled to 15 hours of nursery a week. This was something they were unaware of it, so I gathered all the information and they are now on the waiting list. I can’t wait for them to start. It will really help the twins, and it will give the mum a bit of time to catch up on other things.

FRIDAY

Before I leave for my NHS work, I make a dental appointment for my six-month check-up. While I’m on hold it I consider how hard it must be for people who can’t make appointments. Perhaps because of language barriers, or because they are not looped into services, they are then not accessing basic health care.

Families bring us into their lives and work with us to create the best possible environment for their children.

A couple of weeks ago the mum had complained to me about a hernia. She wasn’t able to call and chase up her appointment. So I encouraged her to talk to the GP which she did. I rang the hospital to try and bring her appointment forward a little bit because she was in so much pain. Advocating for families is an important part of the support we can offer, but, at the same time I feel sad that there are so many families out there with no one advocating for them.

SATURDAY

I make the most of spending precious time with my family and then I begin to plan my work for the following week. As always it will be the usual juggle of being on the NHS bank, working in a vaccination centre and supporting my volunteer family. “I have a supervision meeting with my co-ordinator next week so I make sure all my notes are up-to-date. We receive a lot of support and I can raise any issues or concerns I have with my coordinator and they will take action. I’m looking forward to discussing the family with her and how I believe, they will soon be in a position to move on.

Mum has gone from strength to strength. She is learning English, is connected with health services and is growing in confidence.

SUNDAY

One of my favourite days of the week to relax. Life is busy, but it’s also very fulfilling.

I love my role as a Home-Start volunteer.  Families bring us into their lives and work with us to create the best possible environment for their children. I can’t imagine a better use of time.”

Our Home-Start volunteers are invited into the homes of families, where they make a huge difference during those precious early years of a child’s life. 

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Find out how to become a Home-Start volunteer