Home-Start volunteer Shamim, 46, has plenty of parenting experience, she is mum to three daughters and one son and grandmother to three grandchildren. In addition, she was also main carer to her parents-in-law and still found the time to volunteer!
I started volunteering about nine years ago. I was caring at the time for my parents-in-law as they had complex medical needs. At the time, it was impossible for me to work as I was in and out of hospital with them.
I needed something for myself and when I saw an advert in the Telegraph and Argus looking for Home-Start volunteers, I thought that it would be perfect for me. The training was only one day a week and thanks to my extended family, I could leave my in-laws in their capable hands for a few hours a week.
Since starting volunteering, I have supported about eight different families over the years offering varying levels of support. Sometimes I would play with the children, while the mum could shower or do other tasks. Some mums just simply want to offload on me. I have even helped families with budgeting.
One mum, I supported, had moved from a different town. By the time my support ended with her she had gone to ESOL+ classes (English for Speaker of Other Languages), walking, relaxation classes – you can make such a difference in a couple of hours a week.
Sometimes it can be challenging when there are outside influences that impact on the mum you are trying to support. You become more aware of potential challenges.
One mum of twins needed support, but when I went to visit her, her husband or mother-in-law were always there. It was impossible for me to bond with the mum and it became clear that there was some form of mental abuse going on. The extended family clearly did not want me there and they were afraid of what the mum may tell me. I tried different things but I had to give up and I felt sad and deflated after that situation.
With my latest mum, Samaira, she liked to get out of the house as she has epilepsy and can’t really go out without another adult, so I would take her and her young daughter to play centres, we would go shopping and out to lunch together. Her confidence has increased quite radically since I have been supporting her.
I saw a big change in Samaira. When I started to visit her, her self-confidence was very low, her mental state of mind was not good, and it was clear how sad she was feeling. I got the impression she really looked forward to me coming, I would take her out to lunch, which was something new to her.
She had not even been able to take her daughter to play centres through fear of having a blackout with her epilepsy. Not once did she have an attack in my company.
Being a volunteer has really benefitted me. We had a lot of health issues in the family and I sadly had a still birth, but volunteering made me more aware of issues that other families face and seeing those issues made me stronger and stopped me from feeling sorry for myself!
Volunteering is a wonderful thing, especially when you see the difference your support is making to a family.