Home Start UK

Story 3

My name is Sarah.  I’m 35 and have four children.  I had my first encounter with Home-Start Northampton when my eldest child (now 13) was little.  Our volunteer, a retired woman called Norma, came once a week for a couple of hours.  My daughter Susie was a highly intelligent child and needed a lot of stimulus - as a single mum without family support and with mental health issues Norma was a godsend.  I got to tackle chores whilst they painted/did playdoh/read books and we took Susie out for walks (I had agoraphobia problems back then).  Susie adored Norma and fondly remembers eating “Norma tomatoes” (her first experience of being willing to try a tomato and because it was given by some-one special just for her was delightful to see.  She was so excited that Norma had grown them, not just brought them from a supermarket).  Norma helped out for a while then went on to support another family.

I was put in touch with Home-Start again after the birth of my second child, Jane, 6 years later.  This time our volunteer was not a retired woman but a young mum herself, Nicola. She was practical as well as emotionally supportive and I was very sad when her husband’s job dictated they moved away shortly before I gave birth to my third child.  Pauline then became my volunteer.

When Liam arrived life was very hard for us.  A traumatic birth ending in a c-section and severe postnatal depression coupled with Liam being a difficult baby meant for trying times.  He was discovered to have a genetic fault that left him with developmental delay (he didn’t walk until 2 years old), hypertonia (weak muscle tone) and a myriad of other minor issues added to the stress in my household.  He cried a lot and Pauline became a lifeline.  Sometimes her arrival gave me a sense of peace as I knew that whilst she was in my home I was not alone against the world.  She has a deliciously calming quality that manages to always leave me feeling kind of relieved and although I never told her she often gave me the emotional strength to battle on ’til the following week.

In the months that followed my family saw intervention from the Family Support Team of the Children and Young People’s Service and the community mental health services.  Home-Start was verging towards a necessity in my existence.  Its unique quality of care kind of nurtures you as a person, mum and as a family unit, never judgemental and always consistently following your wishes is a stark contrast to the authorities.

My eldest daughter found it all too much and went to live with her dad in February 2007.  I was devastated.  Predictably, it was Home-Start who helped me pick myself up and dusted me down.  I knew they were truly there for my family without prejudice of our situation.  It was a shock to discover shortly after that I was pregnant with my fourth child.

Home-Start has been a major part of my family for a long time.  Jane starts ‘Big School’ (September 2008) soon.  At that point we will be saying our goodbyes.  Over the years it has provided me with so many things - from basics such as practical support helping with my children after 2 c-sections, helping with my rabble as we attended Liam’s physio appointments and making it possible for me to get my teeth seen to.  Home-Start has been a powerful advocate at Family Support Planning Meetings.  Knowing us so intimately helped ensure that the extra help we really needed was forthcoming and they weren’t visiting and providing just a ’sticking plaster’ solution.  Most of all, it has been a very special emotional support that has given me strength, courage, confidence with my children and parenting skills (and the occasional kick up the pants when I’ve asked for it).

NEVER underestimate what Home-Start Northampton offers.  All of the above plus wonderful Christmas parties, picnics and trips that allow the children extra happy childhood memories they richly deserve.

Finally, before I leave you to ponder more pressing matters, I’d just like to say that Home-Start Northampton hasn’t seen the last of me.  When my youngest child starts school (she is nearly one as I write this) it is my intention to train as a volunteer.  I hope with all my heart that funding to this scheme continues so they can carry on supporting families like mine and I can fulfil my volunteering wish.

If I can give Home-Start even a fraction of what it has given me it will be a fitting tribute to all they stand for.  I truly understand the value of a volunteer and they are worth far more than anything you could possibly imagine. I cannot express my gratitude to them in words as ‘Thank You’ seems ridiculously inadequate.

Home-Start is so much more than a cosy cup of tea and a chat - my family are living proof of that.