Volunteers are the heart of Home-Start and none more so than Angela Gowdy who at 91 years old shows no sign of stopping!

A paediatric ward sister, a mum, a granny, a great granny and a Home-Start volunteer - children and families have dominated Angela’s professional and personal life. Based in Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, Angela volunteers with Home-Start Garioch. Here, she describes the sense of purpose and joy she gets from volunteering:

"I’m like a weekly granny. I’m there to help. To play with the children. To read with them. To give mum a bit of space to do whatever she needs to, whether that’s cook, clean or go for a run. It’s different now than in my day.

So many families today live away from their own families, so they don’t have as much support. I’m delighted to be that support for them.

My week typically begins with me thinking about the families I’m going to visit, and the enjoyment I’ll have when I get there. Wherever I go I’m always the oldest person in the room, but I get so much energy and joy from children. I just love being around them and they seem to love being around me".

Every family is different

"It’s magical for me to be with children. I also get a great sense of purpose in being able to take some pressure off the mother in whatever way they want me to. Every family is different and every person within each family is different. So there are no surprises left, I’m prepared for everything.

I have two daughters who are 60 and 58, and five grandsons and one great grandson. This perhaps explains my special affinity for boys, so I’m typically matched with families who have boys. I became a Home-Start volunteer in 1996, and I’ve been with a family ever since.

I’m very fortunate to see so many of the children I once supported fully grown into the most wonderful adults. Just the other day a mum I supported over 20 years ago asked me out for coffee. She said she’d been thinking of me and wanted to get in touch".

Counting down the days

"The family had four boys and a little girl. As I sat there in the café, it was hard to believe the little girl I played with was now the young woman sat opposite me. When I asked if she remembered me I was touched when she described our walks. It is lovely to be part of family memories like this. Yet another reminder of the privileged position we have as Home-Start volunteers. You don’t think about taking, you just think about giving yourself for those two or three hours a week.

The family I recently supported had four children and lived in a castle. It was chaotic with the children running around - I loved every minute of it. And they loved Mondays because that was the day I went. The mum said she counted down the days to Monday.

The families vary so much. I’ve had families with multiple births, health issues, drug and alcohol problems. Sadly I’ve seen that sometimes there isn’t a happy ending, with children removed and placed into care. Thankfully this is rare, and usually a little intervention is all a family needs to get them to wherever they want to be".

I was in tears

"The family I’m supporting at the moment have three boys. The youngest had been very poorly in hospital, so when he was back home he was very clingy and didn’t want to leave his mum’s side. This left her unable to do anything without him.

Before my first visit once he was discharged from hospital, the mum and I knew we would have to take things slowly. But, on that very first visit the most wonderful thing happened. He immediately welcomed me. 

The little boy told me to sit on the stairs and put on my slippers. I was in tears. He was so accepting and trusting. The little boy and I had a wonderful hour together playing, while the mum went out for a run. As well as enjoying the company of the little boy, I also very much enjoyed seeing how revived the mum looked on her return.

When you leave a family there is a sadness about it. But there’s also the pride you get in seeing the family in a much better place. Perhaps their lifestyle has changed or their attitude, or perhaps they are feeling more confident about themselves. These are the things that reward you as a volunteer. That you were able to help in some small way".

No plans to retire

"I plan to keep going for as long as Home-Start Garioch will have me. If I can no longer drive, or feel physically unable, I’ll sadly have to retire from my volunteering. But I certainly have no plans to retire any time soon. Volunteering for Home-Start has given me a purpose and I’m thankful to have gained so many wonderful memories and moments from it.

My week typically begins with me thinking about the families I’m going to visit, and the enjoyment I’ll have when I get there.”

Find out how you can become a Home-Start volunteer

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