When we lift up others, we lift up ourselves which is why parents who have received Home-Start support often become volunteers, trustees and staff members, giving back to others what they received themselves in a continuous and beautiful cycle of support. 

Here are Eve, Debbie and Hema's stories:

Eve Goody was referred to Home-Start in Suffolk suffering 'chronic sleep deprivation' but the reality was a lot more challenging than simply lack of sleep. Eve and her husband had moved to a rural village in Suffolk from Scotland, where they knew nobody. Meanwhile, their toddler daughter with severe autism could not cope with their new baby and her behaviour spiralled out of control.

The couple were exhausted. Thankfully, being matched with a special needs volunteer became the rainbow at a difficult time, bringing calm, friendship and support. Seven years later and Eve is now an income generation co-ordinator for Home-Start Suffolk after time as an office volunteer.

“I’m proud to work for a charity that makes such a difference. My experience is of benefit when presenting about the charity or to volunteer training courses. It gives an insight into the 'other side' before they go out to meet their first families.”

Eve’s eldest daughter Noella was two when Alba was born. Noella is autistic and her behaviour became increasingly challenging with regular violent meltdowns, smashing up the house, running away, attacking Eve and smearing faeces over herself and the walls.

Eve says: “For three years Noella refused to be in the same room as our baby. Every time Alba cried, it set Noella off. Life at home rapidly deteriorated. I’d spend my days running between the two children, cleaning walls and carpets, and removing smashed items.

I didn’t know anyone in Suffolk and felt isolated. I often went weeks without leaving the house. The only adults I interacted with were my children’s health professionals. My husband went to work every day and returned home to utter chaos.”

Now, Noella is 10 and Alba is 6 and Eve says: “Gradually our family life became ‘normal’ and happy and we have the space and time to enjoy our two wonderful girls. Plus, with Home-Start’s flexibility, I have a job-share I love and can still manage things at home.”

Debbie's story: From supported mum to volunteer to family support worker

Many of the parents Home-Start supports go on to become volunteers themselves. Currently over 1,000 Home-Start volunteers were previously supported by the charity. Having the opportunity to support  another family can further build their own confidence and belief in themselves by showing what they’re capable of.

Debbie Hastings received Home-Start support when she had postnatal depression following the birth of her second child. Some years later she became a volunteer and is now a family support worker at Home-Start Corby.

Debbie says: “I was so excited to be offered this role, to be able to move forward and be a bigger part of Home-Start and be able to do even more for our families.”

Debbie’s children are now 16 and 13, but she clearly remembers how it feels to have the kindness of a weekly volunteer.

"Home-Start was a big part of my recovery and provided a lot of support at the time. Years later, I was at a group for autistic children when I saw Maggie from Home-Start Corby giving a talk about volunteering.

Hearing Maggie talk it dawned on me that by volunteering I could help someone as I was helped all those years ago. Being able to help people is such a privileged position to be in. I’ve met some wonderful families. Home-Start is such an important charity. I don’t know what would have happened to me if there was no Home-Start.

Over the years I’ve gone through a lot but that experience helps me empathise and relate to families who themselves are going through difficulties. It’s a great feeling when a family no longer needs you. You get a warm feeling to see them in a much better place than when you first met.”

Debbie has supported parents with a wide range of issues including helping children prepare for school.

“For some families they have too much already on their plate so they are not able to help their children
be ready for when they start school. It’s wonderful that we can step in and provide that.”

Hema's story: From supported mum to Home-Start trustee

Hema is giving back to her community by becoming a treasurer for Home-Start Lorn as a way of saying thank you for the support she received when she was feeling isolated.

Hema had moved from Oxford to the Scottish village of Taynuilt just a few months before the pandemic locked down the country, and with 18 month old daughter Kiara to care for and her husband working long hours, Hema’s volunteer became the vital lifeline she needed.

Hema says: “Letting somebody into your life who is a stranger felt like a really big thing and I was a bit reluctant at  first, so chatted about it with my partner. Eventually I thought why not give it a go. It was the best thing I ever did. Had I not had a volunteer I think I would have ended up going back to London to live with my family during lockdown, but as it was, my volunteer rang and messaged every day, offered to shop. She kept me sane.

When you have a Home-Start volunteer you think it is for the child but actually it is for the parent too and as a result the child benefits. When I was matched with volunteer Seonaid Thornton, who is in her 70s, she became a trusted friend. She is so important to me and her friendship is priceless.

In December 2020 I was asked if I’d like to become a charity trustee. Home-Start is so important to me. I have mostly worked in travel and tourism for my career. So being a trustee has taught me so many extra valuable skills. I wanted to give back to the community as my way of saying thank you for all the help I received. I am soon to become their trustee treasurer".

Find out how you could volunteer for Home-Start

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