I gave birth to my first child exactly one month after my 20th birthday. I had only been married a short while, the pregnancy was unplanned and I had absolutely no experience of babies or children! Before my 25th birthday I had given birth twice more so was now the proud mother of three under-fives! My third child was also the one who thought sleeping was a waste of time – and that if she was awake, then I should be too! Six weeks after she was born her elder brother started school. And he hated it! Every morning was a battle to try and get him to the school gates; when we got there he had to be dragged kicking and screaming (literally) into the school by his teacher. Throw a 2 year-old into the equation who was still a 2 year-old into everything and you can see what life was like in our house – absolute chaos!
Luckily my Health Visitor referred me to Home Start and I can honestly say this changed my life. Not immediately and not in the way I was hoping or expecting, but life has since taught me that things often don’t turn out quite the way you expect! A volunteer visited me once a week for about 3 months and I realised that I wasn’t the only parent to feel like I couldn’t cope. Then the volunteer’s family circumstances changed and she couldn’t volunteer any longer. Home-Start offered to match me with another volunteer but I politely declined.
When my youngest child started school I decided to enrol on my local scheme’s volunteer preparation course. To my surprise I really enjoyed the course and learnt a lot about myself. I actually found visiting families much harder work and more emotionally draining than I expected it to be but continued to learn a great deal about myself and other people.
After six months I became the volunteer representative on the Management Committee and I soon found myself really enjoying this side of volunteering; over the next 2 years I threw myself into working for the committee and was eager to learn not just about Home-Start but about the voluntary sector in general.
The Chair of the scheme had to retire due to ill health. When it was suggested that I could be Chair my initial reaction was to laugh. However after consideration I decided to give it a go. It was a very steep learning curve but I learnt ‘on the job’. By now, my children were older and I was able to really throw myself into the role – and found myself thoroughly enjoying the challenge of leading the scheme. My three years as Chair flew by and I felt like a different person. Not only was I much more confident in my own abilities, I also felt I really understood what volunteering was all about. I now work in the voluntary sector supporting rural projects.
"I can honestly say that if it hadn’t have been for Home Start, the experience, the training, the support and not least the encouragement and belief they showed in me, then I would not be where I am today."