Once a week in a room in Wandsworth, a group of mums gather to get stuck into some serious crafting. Most have never crafted before, but these weekly sessions are not just about making cards, they’re about making friendships and improving mental health. 

The sessions were started by nurse, mum of three, and keen crafter Alloy Brown. Alloy was referred to Home-Start Wandsworth following the birth of her third baby leading to her postnatal depression. A few weeks after the birth, Alloy felt isolated and found herself withdrawing from her family.

Alloy was matched with
Home-Start volunteer Sarah Gillen, a mum of five and a retired nurse. The two soon became firm friends and Alloy credits Sarah with helping her to regain her confidence and connection to the world outside. Alloy said: “Last year was wonderful in that I had my baby, but it also became one of the darkest times in my life. After giving birth to my third child I was feeling low and I withdrew from everyone and everything".

For months I was in a very dark place

"I have an amazing family and it was a time for me to be happy, but for some reason every thought was negative. For months I was in a very dark place and felt so isolated. I’d never had mental health problems before, and didn’t even realise how isolated I was feeling. Despite being a nurse, I initially failed to pick up on the signs straight away as I thought I was having the baby blues.”  

Thankfully Alloy received support from her GP and mental health team, but crucially, she credits the support she received from Home-Start Wandsworth volunteer Sarah the most in terms of reducing her isolation. Alloy said: “I felt so lonely and that the whole world was against me. I was prescribed medications, had cognitive behavioural therapy, but the thing that made the biggest difference was the support and friendship of Sarah".  

I couldn't see the difference a volunteer could make

"I massively underestimated the difference a volunteer could make. When Home-Start first suggested it to me I couldn’t see how it would make a difference. But then I realised I needed all the help I could get and it was worth a go. It felt odd the thought of a stranger coming into our home. But as soon as I met Sarah those feelings changed. 

Alloy’s volunteer Sarah loves being around children and wanted to give back to the community. Volunteering for Home-Start hit both those points.  Sarah said: “Unable to find childcare I had to leave my nursing career, so when my children were older, volunteering to support families was a perfect fit for me 

You can be a busy mum, surrounded by your family, but still feel lonely. If I’d had known about Home-Start when my children were younger, I know I would have greatly benefited from a Home-Start volunteer.” 

Sarah visited Alloy every week, and gently encouraged her to get out of the house, as Alloy explains. “Whether I felt like crying or ranting she was there. Just having her there made me feel connected, and encouraged me to be positive. As for the children they absolutely love Sarah and really looked forward to her visits.” 

Crafting improves my mental health

Alloy and Sarah got into a routine of crafting together and Sarah encouraged Alloy to share her crafting talents with the other mums.  Alloy said: “I shared with Sarah my love of crafting. As a nurse I found crafting a way to manage stress. I try to find time to craft every day because it makes a big difference to my mental health. We often sit together and make cards.”

With Alloy’s new found confidence she is now running the weekly crafting sessions for mums supported by Home-Start. Planning what we will do each week in the groups has given her structure and focused her mind away from negative thoughts.

To see the mums enjoy the sessions has meant the world to me. On our very first session we made thank you cards to all our volunteers. It felt quite emotional and was wonderful to show our appreciation for this amazing group of volunteers who mean so much to us. 

Alloy’s volunteering at the group has made a big difference as Clare, Hubs Coordinator explains: “Our regularly tell us how important our weekly connect sessions are for providing friendship and support to develop confidence. Alloy’s sessions are very popular and well attended with mums creating beautiful crafts including cards and keyrings.  We’re really grateful for her support within our community.”

Clare’s colleague Carey, Hubs Coordinator continues, “The sessions we are doing with Alloy show how so
many of the families have skills to share. We find that enabling families to share their skills empowers them and gives them the confidence to take these skills further.”

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