Our home visiting volunteers are the backbone of Home-Start Richmondshire. They give their time, care and commitment bringing warmth, friendship, humour, empathy and a realistic view of life. It is this that makes a real difference to the lives of the families that Home-Start supports.
Who are our volunteers?
They are people just like you – parents who understand just how hard it can be to bring up young children. Our volunteers are of all ages and from all walks of life.
Parents supporting parents is what Home-Start is all about. The only real ‘qualifications’ for our volunteers are an experience of bringing up children, friendliness, a caring attitude and an understanding of the pressures of parenting. We value people who don’t judge others; people who will respect the fact that they have been invited into a family’s home and people who will treat a mother or father as an equal.
Can my support and friendship really make a difference?
All parents know that the early years before children go off to school are vital in a child’s life and at Home-Start we believe parents have the key role in creating a secure childhood for their children. Just sometimes parents can need some help.
Last year more than 90% of the families our volunteers had supported said they felt:
- More positive
- Better able to cope
- More confident
- That family life had improved
What do volunteers actually do?
Volunteers usually visit a family in their own home once a week for a couple of hours (times are to suit you). How we help depends on the needs of the family – we may do lots of talking and listening - listening to their concerns, worries and difficulties and offering reassurance and comfort. Talking about ideas that may help or which support services could be accessed. We may do practical things like going with the family to an activity, to an appointment, swimming or just for a walk in the park. We may help them to cook a nutritious meal; play with the children so that mum or dad can have a break or get on with chores; help them with budgeting or debt issues; we may go with them to join new groups or chat through ideas about how to manage their children’s behaviour. So there is a multitude of ways that we may help families. What we always do for every family is act as a positive role model, be non- judgmental and help families to help themselves.
Do volunteers get any training and support?
Yes, we give very high priority to the training and support of our volunteers. All new volunteers must complete our Preparation Course. The course is informal, with lots of discussion and activities and is designed to help you understand the role of a volunteer, family life, values and attitudes, positive parenting and important principles such as confidentiality, safeguarding and equality and diversity. The course is accredited through the Open College Network so if you like, you can gain credits towards a qualification.
Becoming a Home-Start Volunteer is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. The training was so informative and answered all my questions and concerns. After the training I felt ready to be placed with my first family knowing that there is continual support from Home-Start whenever I need it and that gives me more confidence too. It is so rewarding and satisfying knowing that my training and experience can benefit a family that needs support.
When supporting a family, volunteers themselves receive lots of support. A Co-ordinators will meet with you on a 1:1 basis about every 6-8 weeks to discuss the family’s progress and volunteers know that extra support is available whenever they need it.
We hold quarterly Volunteer Support Group meetings where there is often an outside speaker or workshop, and the chance to meet up again with your fellow volunteers and lunch!
What would I get out of volunteering for Home-Start?
Volunteering is an extremely rewarding, interesting and enjoyable experience. Knowing you have helped others gives a great boost to your self-esteem and confidence; you will learn new skills, gain experience and can gain a qualification which could lead to employment. You will make new friends, be part of a team and, we hope, have fun!
'It is lovely to feel you can help a family in need. Just a few hours a week can make such a difference to so many families, I am very glad I became a Home-Start volunteer and I'm really enjoying my time with the families.'
What commitment would I make as a volunteer?
As you will appreciate, it is important for families to know that we carefully select our volunteers. Firstly we ask you to complete an application form and to have an informal interview. We will ask for references and do a DBS check (formerly a Criminal Record Bureau check). Then you will need to complete our Preparation Course. More information about the course can be found here.
When you are ready to support families we ask that you commit to offering the family 2-3 hours of support weekly (of course we understand you will want to have holidays and some volunteers can only offer support during term time). There is minimal paperwork – we ask you to keep a brief log of your visits to families and complete an expenses form (we pay a mileage rate for travel). We also ask you to meet with one of our Co-ordinators every 6-8 weeks to discuss the progress of your Home-Start family. We run quarterly Volunteer Support Groups which we hope you will be able to attend.
If I am interested in being a Home-Start Richmondshire volunteer what do I do next?
Please, if you are interested in helping parents with young children, you are a parent yourself and have 2-3 hours a week to spare, just give us a ring to have an informal chat or download the application form. We look forward to hearing from you.