“It wasn’t the reward that mattered or the recognition you might harvest. It was your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion – these were the things that counted in life. When you gave purely, the honour was in giving, and that was honour enough.”
This was a quote that I recently found whilst thinking of my time as a volunteer and I felt that it summed up just how I feel about volunteering for Home-Start. I have been a volunteer for about two and a half years now and my initial thought was ‘what can I give to my local community’. I chose Home-Start Northampton after much consideration on where I felt I would fit in and I was right, I have loved every minute.
I started with my first family with trepidation, hoping that I would have the skills that the family needed and that they would like me. I was so surprised how comfortably I fitted into this new role and how just being myself was enough to encourage and give the support that they need to get their life back on track. I have supported four families so far, each having completely different needs, and was really surprised to learn that the life skills that I have acquired along the way are just what each of these families need, a listening ear, a positive outlook or just encouraging these families that they can achieve what they want to achieve.
The most surprising thing for me is just how much I get back from doing this, the self-fulfilment that I wasn’t expecting, the boost you get when someone says thankyou makes every second of volunteering worthwhile.
My ‘family’ do not have a cooker so we made a chocolate microwave cake together. I read out the instructions and encouraged my ‘Mum’ to make a start. She turned to me and asked quite genuinely, “How do I crack an egg?” Insights such as this make me appreciate just how much our families need a helping hand! So who taught me to crack an egg?
When I thought about it I couldn’t come up with an answer straight away, then the realization dawned that probably no one had actually shown me, but through the hours spent alongside my own Mum I just knew intuitively. This week my ‘Mum’ asked, “How do you make scrambled eggs, the nursery says my son likes them?” Such a small ask, but something which potentially can make such a difference.
I have been fortunate and any fears I harboured at the start have been unfounded. I get on well with my ‘family’ and enjoy the time we spend together. I feel a great sense of satisfaction, yet have learnt to be realistic and not expect massive change overnight. I am rewarded with new relationships, thanks and gratitude and the pleasure and joy that come with spending time with young children. The highlight for me, walking towards my ‘family’s’ house and hearing the little one at the door calling my name excitedly over and over, as if I am a long lost loved one!
During the preparation course we covered lots of topics which were very well presented by different speakers. I laughed and cried at some of the things we were being told but I learnt so much and valued these topics. I enjoyed the course so much and the girls I met were a little sad when it came to an end but looked forward to becoming a volunteer. I also have to mention the coffee and tea breaks with sweets and biscuits and also the lovely lunches. FAB!
I waited a few weeks before I was introduced to my family and what a joy it was. A big family with needs which I felt I could help them with after my training.
I visited my first family once a week for a year and was very sad to leave them but was taken back when the dad gave me a kiss and said I would always be welcome in his house. WOW! I still visit them as a friend and yes, I still get a kiss from dad.