Single mum and Home-Start volunteer Siobhan became lonely and isolated due to unavoidable life events. She believes in the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In National Loneliness Awareness Week she explains how Home-Start became her “village” and why more reliable funding for family support services matters.

Where do I start? First I want to say I wouldn’t be the woman and mother that I am today if it wasn’t for Home-Start. Firstly because they helped me when there was little other help on offer and secondly because my local Home-Start really believed in me.

This is my story. Up till 2013 I lived in Mexico but I had to leave in a hurry for two reasons: Firstly my husband’s father was kidnapped and we were told we were the next potential target. What would you do in that situation? I was a British citizen so I applied for my two young children to get British passports so we could leave. The second reason is this: While waiting for the paperwork my husband attacked me when I had our child in my arms, bursting their ear drum. At this stage I found a tiny bit of courage and said I was calling the police. He jumped out the second floor window and was never heard from again.

I left Mexico, with my oldest who was one and half, a six month old and my daughter who I was pregnant with at the time. My 70 year old great aunt was the only family I had with any space to offer us. This soon turned sour. I wasn’t able to work immediately and I was not allowed any benefits.

I had no money at all. I was allowed just two pounds a day for the children. The barrier was the need to pass the habitual residence test, in which you have to prove you intend to stay and that you have the right to stay. Every ten days, for two months until they resolved my residence status, I would go to an office and sometimes wait up to three hours for someone to sign the 20 pounds off. After a month my aunt was at breaking point as I wasn’t able to help financially and we had invaded her peace and quiet. I cannot thank her enough for everything she did.

I was given temporary housing, which felt amazing, but having left my whole life beyond the children behind - my teaching jobs and my possessions and most importantly my dogs, I struggled to be happy. I had no one to talk to and life became about existing - feeding, cleaning and washing the kids. After my daughter was born it became even harder to get out with a two year old, one year old and newborn with a pram to get up and down the stairs, so I hardly went anywhere.

I was offered a better home – that was the start of beginning a better life on my own with the kids. I started to feel safe again but the loneliness was awful. The health visitor suggested going to mother and toddler groups. I tried several times but it is hard to greet new people with a smile on your face when you feel like you can’t even get dressed in the morning. It feels impossible to take part in happy conversations about holidays and new cars when you are wondering if your child will ever get a bed to sleep in.

Eventually my health visitor linked me to Home-Start. That wasn’t easy either. I wasn’t mentally ready to have someone come to my home. But Home-Start didn’t give up – they suggested a visit to the family group. It took me two years to really get involved– the group was a bus ride away. I was lonely but I still felt safest at home.

The kids loved family group – it felt so safe and secure. I wasn’t ready to engage with the other parents at the group but the volunteers gave my kids some much-needed fun and playful interaction which helped me recharge my batteries. Other parents were struggling with their little ones so there was no judgment. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I was not. The volunteers and Home-start staff would make small talk, which is just what you need to gain that confidence to start talking to people.

I was so quiet in the beginning but as I grew in confidence there was an opportunity to do a cooking demo, and I was asked if I would like to do something Mexican. I loved it. I had found my voice and that inner spark that had been dimmed for several years. My inner teacher was activated and I knew I want to be a volunteer when my kids started school. They say it takes a village to raise a child - my village became Home-start and now I am one of the villagers helping other families.

I wouldn’t like to imagine where I would be without Home-Start – but the main point is this: It took me two years to find a place which helped me become the woman I am today and a year of Home-Start’s support to turn the corner from helped to helper. I am so grateful for everything they have done for me and so angry that there isn’t a reliable source of money which allows Home-Start and other charities to guarantee they will be there, as they were for me, when any parent needs them most.

Find out how to volunteer for Home-Start