When Nikita Hasley was a child, she thought of her family's Home-Start volunteer Maureen as an adult she could trust. Maureen created moments of love and calm in a family home that could be chaotic. Years later, when Nikita became a mum, there was just one person she trusted enough to reach out to for help... 

Nikita says:As a child I’ve experienced how a Home-Start volunteer brought calmness to our home. As a parent I’ve seen how it enables me to do the very best for my children. My childhood was definitely improved by the presence of Maureen. Mummy had a hard time. She was raising us single-handedly, alongside trying to manage her own health issues. 

Maureen provided Mummy with someone to talk to which helped her greatly. And when my family broke down, it was Maureen who helped pick up the pieces. A lot had happened in our home, and we were all dealing with it in different ways. Mummy felt guilty and was in turmoil. I was engulfed in my own pain and suffering. At that stage I didn’t trust adults. I’d closed down and had started to rebel. Mummy and I would frequently clash and have huge arguments. I didn’t trust social workers and never wanted to speak to them.

I remember Maureen gently reminding me how the situation was tough for everyone. I needed that. It helped me to understand the impact on Mummy. Over time I found myself opening up to Maureen. I also started to see the positive impact she was having on Mummy, who was always so much more joyful after one of her visits".

Years later it was Maureen I turned to

"It’s hard to convey the impact Maureen had on my family. Losing your partner and having five kids to care for must have been overwhelming. Children pick up on everything and we saw the stress she was under. Maureen picked Mummy up when she was at her lowest and helped her to heal. Maureen and Mummy stayed friends right up to when Mummy died when I was in my mid 20s. 

By that time, I was a mum of three, it was Maureen and Home-Start I turned to. The situation at home with their father wasn’t healthy and I needed that safety of support, and someone I knew I could turn to without judgement. 

Thanks to Maureen, and support from others around me, I was able to leave that situation and raise my kids to be the amazing wee souls they are now. Maureen has been a wonderful presence in my life. The impact she’s had on my family is huge. It’s incredible the difference a Home-Start volunteer can make. Parenting can be hard, and when life comes at you, some days it can feel impossible. But having the support of a Home-Start volunteer gives you the strength to make it through.

It could have been so easy for my early childhood experiences to shape who I would become. But the support I received from a Home-Start volunteer both as a child, and as an adult, made sure that didn’t happen. I’ve been through hard times, but I was lucky that I had some good people around me who I could look up to and learn from. Maureen was most certainly one of them. For our family, she created happiness.

Maureen Kearney was facing empty nest syndrome when her daughter left home and got married. With time on her hands, Maureen contacted Home-Start Down District in Northern Ireland about becoming a home visiting volunteer. Almost 30 years later Maureen is still a volunteer, bringing the transformative power of little moments to over 20 families, including Nikita’s.

“Looking back, it’s incredible how much Nikita noticed and what she still remembers now as a mum herself. How, as a little girl, she saw a difference in her own mum once she started getting support, how she viewed my visits, and how she felt the mood lighten in their home.

Nikita was in her 20s when she lost her mum. When Nikita became a mum herself, she messaged me for information and support. I was very happy to be there for her and help in any way I could. 

Being a Home-Start volunteer places you in the heart of a family’s home, and very quickly that family is in your own heart. There’s a lot of parents struggling and suffering, and of course that means their children are too. By just being there, helping in whatever way the family needs, you can make such a difference. 

Nikita’s children are experiencing a different childhood than Nikita did. And that’s thanks in part to the early intervention that happened, enabling the family to stay together and find a way through their struggles.”

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