Home visitors tell how voluntary work has improved their personal lives.
A survey by Birmingham’s leading family support charity has found that almost 75% of its volunteers have cited an increase in confidence since volunteering for Home-Start.
Home-Start Birmingham conducted the survey with almost 100 of its home-visiting volunteers across the city to find out how volunteering had improved their lives. The charity asked existing volunteers, (who offer a mix of emotional and practical support to families who are struggling to cope), three main questions about their volunteering journey with Home-Start.
Almost 75% said they had experienced an increase in their own self confidence
Nearly 40% said they now feel less lonely since volunteering for Home-Start
50% of volunteers had said that so far, volunteering had more than met their expectations
Lesley Wiltshire, Chair of Home-Start Birmingham said: “The findings prove what we have always known, our volunteers get as much out of supporting families as the families they in fact support. So the findings from our survey are very welcome. We know how important volunteering is in terms of social return on investment however it’s also very important to highlight the difference volunteering makes at a personal level, especially at a time when there are so many worrying reports into the loneliness of the older population. Not only that but with 75% of our volunteers saying their confidence has increase, the knock on effect of this is an increase in their own personal and professional development, in turn this strengthens our local communities.”
One existing volunteer for Home-Start said: “As a widow, recently retired, my confidence was at rock bottom. Friends and family rally around you to begin with, but eventually they have their own lives to get on with. Never did I think I would become lonely, it just creeps up on you, and it’s so debilitating. I remember hearing that Home-Start was a charity that was looking for local people with parenting experience. I thought I could do that, having raised three sons. It is amazing how quickly you discover how to use your skills, and how empowered you feel knowing that a younger parent is looking to you for just a little bit of support.
“Having that planned weekly visit to see my Home-Start family makes such a difference to my life. I can honestly say without my volunteer work, I would be a very lonely older woman and probably very depressed.”
In an ideal world a charity like Home-Start wouldn’t be needed. But for many parents the pressures of family life are simply too much to cope with alone. There are so many reasons for this including; poverty, illness, family breakdowns and parental isolation. And this is where Home-Start steps in, by recruiting and training local parent volunteers to offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes. For just a couple of hours a week, a local parent’s own parenting experience could make all the difference to a family that is struggling to cope.
In Birmingham, there are six Home-Starts; in the last year alone, their 150 volunteers supported over 500 families and 800 children. But life is getting tougher for many families, and the demand for Home-Start support is at an all- time high. All six Home-Starts across Birmingham need more volunteers, and throughout the year, they will be running many training courses, preparing new volunteers before they are matched to their first family.
Lesley continued: “Every family we support needs Home-Start for a different reason. It’s why we match our volunteers to meet the needs of each individual family. For every family that needs our support in stopping them from reaching crisis point, (and who may have social services involvement), we have hundreds of more families who just need a friendly face and a listening ear.
“Other families need Home-Start for practical help with multiple births, or support in attending hospital appointments, whilst other parents need emotional support in dealing with isolation, low self- esteem and poor mental health. No matter what your background, if you have parenting experience, and can spare just a few hours each week, we’d love to hear from you.”
To find out more about Home-Start Birmingham and how to volunteer for the charity, visit: www.homestartbirmingham.co.uk