Every week, thousands of Home-Start volunteers knock on the door of a local family, ready to offer support, advice and guidance to the parent who answers. For the last ten years, 200 of these volunteers have been out and about, supporting families in West Dorset.

Over the past three days, we will be featuring three stories from three of the ‘original’ families who received support from Home-Start over a decade ago to find out what they are up to now…

Day Three: Anita’s Story

Anita Carter and husband, Ian never planned to have twelve children. ‘We thought we were complete at four,’ she says. ‘Then we had a seven-year gap and a slightly unplanned one. Before we knew it we were at eight and had just got used to it.’

It was when she’d had child number ten that the newly-formed Home-Start got involved. ‘My father had died when I was pregnant with Merrik - my ninth - so I was dealing with grief, a new baby, and I probably also had PND. Then, when Delila arrived she was a tricky baby who cried all the time and refused to be put down. I spent a year just cuddling her, but she wouldn’t settle – preferring to be with my husband or daughter. And at that point, I knew I needed to get help.’

As someone who rules her own roost extremely happily but suffers from acute social anxiety, inviting a stranger into her home was a big step for Anita. ‘I kind of clammed up when Jane started visiting. It was hard, talking to someone because I hadn’t done it for so long. I’d been surrounded by children and only really spoken to my husband.’

‘But it was something I knew I had to do, for I’d become so socially isolated, and Jane provide that link with the outside world.

‘She was a great help. Monday is bedsheets day, and she helped the kids do theirs – I had six sets to wash every week. She’d also listen to them read, talk to them, engage with them generally.’

Now Anita volunteers for Home-Start herself. ‘It was a continuation of wanting to meet people and do something other than being a mum that made me decide to train [as a volunteer]. Over the four years I’ve helped six families; mainly those with young babies, including two sets of twins.’

When asked about how she feels going into other people’s houses when she is so shy herself, she replied; ‘It’s still very hard. But I know that once I needed a listening ear, so I now try and give back. I think it’s so important in today’s fractured society – we forget that mothers and fathers need help.’

What’s striking about Anita’s home (apart from the umpteen spoons on the kitchen top) is the harmony she fosters, and I’m intrigued by how she’s managed it. ‘We do have rows,’ she says, ‘and I am a bit of a shouter.’ She giggles. ‘Well, you have to be sometimes. You get so wound up that you’ve got to let it out. You may not like their views at times, but you’ve got to appreciate that they’re all individuals. And you must just love them – and teach them to be kind.’

Thank you to Jess Thompson from Home-Start West Dorset for her help with gathering these stories and images.

Click here to read the two previous stories in this series: Zoe’s story from Day One  Caroline’s story from Day Two.