Volunteer Journey – Juila

Well, who would have thought that one small advert in a free, local magazine would lead to my being a home-visiting volunteer with Home-Start Leeds? That’s where my journey began, and the rest, as they say, is history!

I have supported many families across the Leeds area. Some for a short while and others for longer – even years. The families have been from all walks of life and have had many different reasons for needing support from a Home-Start volunteer. There have been good times, when things have turned out well and bad times too, when the ending didn’t turn out as we had hoped. But during all of this, I have received excellent support from many of the co-ordinators. They have always been on the end of the phone, to offer advice, support, and a listening ear. This has always been very much appreciated, especially when supporting families who had ongoing, multiple problems and needs.

I have taken advantage of most of the Learning and Development sessions that have regularly been on offer. I have always found them to be a great source of information to expand my knowledge and practice. I have been a member of the Learning and Development Committee for a good few years and have met with co-ordinations to discuss plans for forthcoming events. We always strived to offer sessions that were new and relevant.

Ever keen to expand my knowledge and skills, I jumped at the chance to study for relevant qualifications offered by Home-Start Leeds. I was able to study at home as the course work and reading resources were included. I really enjoyed the challenge, learned a lot and was glad of the opportunity.

As well as doing home visits, I have been a telephone mentor- contacting prospective volunteers who were just starting out on their training. I really enjoyed speaking with them and hearing about the life journeys and their reasons for wanting to join the Home-Start family.

Throughout my volunteering with Home-Start Leeds, I have met so many lovely people. We have all learned so much from each other and have been able to build positive and trusting relationships, based on respect and acceptance. It is a cliche ,I know, but I have to say that it really has been a privilege to be allowed into homes as a stranger but have left as a friend.

Children of all ages, from babies to teens, have looked forward to doing activities with me each week. They have all enjoyed rummaging through my craft bag, to see what I’d brought. It could have been anything that I thought they would be interested in………jigsaws, card games, puzzles, board games, glitter and glue, books to share, baking. The list is endless really when I think back . Activities like these helped to build a rapport with the whole family, who often joined in too. It also gave parents or carers a break, which they always appreciated. The children and I enjoyed these sessions, and it were good for them to have some “down time” after a busy day at school. I often introduced them to activities that they may not have had the opportunity to try before, or perhaps were not allowed to try because it was too messy, or there was no money available to buy resources, which I provided.

Just the week before Christmas, I did a doorstep visit to my Home-Start family, to deliver Christmas presents. All of the children were so pleased to see me, as I hadn’t seen them for nine month due to the Covid restrictions. They had all grown and changed so much. It was lovely to see them. What touched me the most was the recognition on the toddler’s faces. Their eyes lit up and were sparkling and they were grinning from ear to ear – and talking . Wow! So much happens in nine months when you are becoming a toddler ! It was a lovely moment and one which I will treasure for a long time to come.

So now, after nearly twelve years as a volunteer, I am hanging up my craft bag and saying farewell to all my friends at Home – Start Leeds. It has been a pleasure volunteering with you, and I hope that our paths will cross again in the future.

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