Home-Start Leeds, established in 1987, is part of a national charity (Home-Start UK) that recruits volunteers to support families struggling with a range of difficulties that create vulnerability and disadvantage.
Founded in Leicester in 1973 the charity has grown and now supports families in all communities both in the UK and overseas. Home-Start founder, Margaret Harrison, believed that the best way to help children is to help their parents.
In Leeds, Home-Start volunteers support families throughout the city including South Leeds and offer volunteering opportunities for people from all communities. Volunteers, who are usually parents themselves, become friends alongside the family, offering a listening ear, guidance and some practical help. Referrals for the service are usually from other services such as Children Centres or social work. The ‘voluntary’ nature of our service means families are often more willing and open to engagement.
Michelle, a volunteer from south Leeds, is 33 years old and has one daughter aged 9 years.
Michelle looked for volunteering to gain some work experience in the line of work she wanted to go into. Home-Start was suggested to her by a previous volunteer that was working as an outreach worker for the local children’s centre. She has now been volunteering with Home-Start Leeds for almost 6 years and during that time has supported 3 families.
During her volunteering with Home-Start Michelle has supported families to overcome many difficulties including “isolation, safeguarding and child protection” issues.
She tells us that, often, as you get to know the family, other issues crop up such as bedtime routines, managing children’s behaviour, healthy eating, depression etc’ and the organisation supports the volunteers , through training and supervision, to increase their skills and confidence to support and guide families.
Her experience of supporting 3 families over six years shows that working with families who need additional help requires enough time for families to build trust , share their problems and start to change patterns.
“Volunteering with Home-Start has helped me realise how diverse families are as are their needs and issues. It has given me the ability to look at things from a different point view and I realise how important it is to just listen to what families have to say.
“The whole process is so rewarding. From the beginning, when a family lets you into their lives, often when they are feeling the most vulnerable, to building, gaining and keeping their trust and finally at the end where you can see the changes that have been made and the issues they have overcome.”
Michelle says Home-Start offer fantastic support not just in their preparation, training and supporting their volunteers to support families, but also taking an interest in the volunteers’ themselves such as asking how university is going, etc.
Michelle is currently waiting for results of an undergraduate degree in Working with Children, Young People and Families, and hoping to use this and her volunteering to gain employment in the near future.
Thank you to Michelle for contributing to this article.
Interested in volunteering or finding out more about Home-Start Leeds?
They would love to hear from you.
Contact the office on (0113) 244 2419 or email them: email@example.com