When Collette was watching breakfast television one morning in December 2022, she didn't expect that it would change her life. But it did. 

A short film about a Home-Start volunteer inspired her to sign up to Good Morning Britain's '1 Million Minute campaign' and she's been volunteering with Home-Start ever since. The experience has been transformative.

This is her story:

Collette has a rare illness called Dopa-responsive Dystonia, which left her confined to a wheelchair for ten years as a child, and continues to affect her life. She wanted to use her experiences in overcoming challenges and finding positivity to help others. 

The condition started when I was just five years old and affected my movement and ability to speak,” she explains. I’ve always tried to live life to the fullest in spite of my illness. I worked as a learning mentor in a further education college. Unfortunately, I had to stop work six years ago when managing my illness became too much, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to use my brain and I struggled not being able to work. 

Having to give up work was a big blow for Collette, but she knew that volunteering could be the answer, and that she still had lots to give to the right organisation. 

I felt like I had been stuck in a bit of a rut,” Collette remembers. “I wanted to start adding some structure to my life again and I wanted to make a difference because I knew I had skills that could help someone. I also thought it would be good for me to get out of the house". 

Good Morning Britain

But it wasn’t until she saw Home-Start on Good Morning Britain that Collette found the right opportunity for her.  

Good Morning Britain is part of my morning, so when I watched the 1 Million Minutes campaign I found it very emotional to watch the stories and felt drawn to Home-Start UK because I saw how much of a difference the Home-Start volunteer was making to the family. I wanted to make that difference in someone’s life and make them smile. 

Supporting a mum with anxiety

Collette pledged her time through ITV's 1 Million Minutes website and was matched to her local Home-Start, Home-Start St Helens. After completing the volunteering training course, Collette was matched with, Lauren, a mum of two, who is suffering from anxiety which has left her struggling to leave the house.  

I was matched with a lovely family,” Collette explains. “I went with a very open mind. I was honest with the mum about my disability, which I think helped her to open up to me.  

The first thing I did was get some books on anxiety so I had a better understanding of it. The first time we managed to get out to the park and stay there for just over an hour. Lauren was so proud of herself, I was proud of her too. I felt like we had conquered a mountain. At the end of my visits, we do a little self-reflection in the hope that she sees how far she’s come". 

Volunteering is a pick-me-up

Volunteering gives me such a feel-good pick me up. I’ve been able to use the skills I have to support this family. Sometimes after a visit, I think back and I wonder if I’ve made a difference today but when I sit and reflect I realise I have. 

"It's enabled me to feel worthwhile again. It's helped massively with my mental health, and it's making a difference to somebody else's life.

I believe with Home-Start I’ve learnt something new every day and the local Home-Start are really supportive. I’ve made really good connections with the staff and volunteers. It’s really changed my lifestyle as much as I’m changing someone else’s. 

I’ve told Lauren that she gives me as much as I’m giving her. I’m a positive person who feels like I can overcome anything and I hope I can help Lauren see that she can too". 

Could you be a Home-start volunteer, supporting families in your community?

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