In this blog, we meet mum of two, Berni Gabbutt. Her Home-Start journey started with another volunteering role in breastfeeding support and when that door closed, the Home-Start one opened wide with a massive welcome mat at the other side!
I was on maternity leave with my daughter, now 15, and between jobs. I had already decided to be a stay at home mum as I wanted to be there for my children at every opportunity, but I also needed something else to do. I was very comfortable with breastfeeding so my health visitor suggested that I may want to become a Sure-Start Breastfeeding Supporter with the Bosom Buddies.
I did the six-week Bosom Buddies course and I was a volunteer with them for three years until the funding ran out. I was then pregnant with my son, now 11. One of my Bosom Buddy friends told me that Home-Start Bradford District were looking to keep the breastfeeding support continuing and that they were running volunteer preparation courses for anyone that was interested. I decided to give it a go.
By the end of 2009 I had completed the course – it was so interesting but you must be prepared to learn about issues such as safeguarding and abuse, which although I found quite emotionally challenging, it is necessary for you to know what to look out for.
I have supported seven families over the last nine years. The first family I supported was for three years. My support comes in a variety of different ways and is dependent on what families need. Some needs are basic like getting out of the house. Some mums find that so challenging and it can very isolating for them being stuck at home all day. I love to introduce families to local services and will take them to playgroups, local family centres, libraries. I even supported one family to complete all the documentation that they needed for school nursery.
There was one mum that I supported that I couldn’t get to leave the house as she was very house proud and the house had to be continually spick and span. I found that quite difficult and only managed to get her to a play group on one occasion. It is frustrating because you know that the social interaction and change of scenery would do her and her toddler the world of good. However, we just had to make the most of doing activities together in her home and I knew that they would be benefitting from my company.
Having a volunteer can be hugely beneficial for a family. Just having that person coming in every week can make a big difference in a family’s life. Parenting isn’t easy and we all need help sometimes. A Home-Start volunteer is someone you can offload your worries to. To be that extra pair of hands. If you are a parent that doesn’t get out and about much and don’t see anyone on a daily basis: having someone to talk to makes a massive difference.
For me, it is lovely being able to share my parenting experience, talking about my children and reaffirming that they are doing a great job with their parenting – as a parent we don’t hear that enough.
It also works both ways. I get that ‘feel good’ feeling when I have helped a family and have done my best to help that situation. My own well-being has improved and I feel needed and appreciated. You are making a difference in someone’s life and you don’t necessarily get that through a paid job. I simply love giving.
The Home-Start Bradford District team are very supportive. I always feel that there is someone at the end of the phone if I need support. They have always been there if I have had any worries about a family or even if I have had personal anxieties.
Volunteering is so rewarding, it may not pay in money but it pays in so many other ways: confidence, mental well-being, the ‘feel-good’ factor – these things are priceless.
I don’t have stress, volunteering fits around my family life, I am just simply proud to be a Home-Start Volunteer.