Family stories…..

Back in November 2008, I was introduced to a Home-Start worker and my volunteer Shelagh. The day in question was a busy one with friends coming to visit me from work before my impending little delivery!

I was a little apprehensive at first as being a disabled mother to be, I felt that we didn’t need help. Too proud and fiercely independent! But later that day my little one had different ideas and wanted to say hello a month early. Home-Start have been with me from day one and both my husband and I really appreciate the help and support they have given us.

Sadly, my original Home-Start worker has now retired and our first volunteer Shelagh passed away a while back. We were then introduced to a volunteer called Marilyn who visited for a while, but then decided that she needed to be available for her daughter who was expecting their first grandchild in Singapore. We then met Molly who has become a very good friend to us over the last couple of years and is like a surrogate Nanny to our daughter. I can’t believe where those 5 years of support have gone and without it I’m not sure what would have happened.

This is a brilliant service and I always tell friends and new mums about it. Keep up the good work!

Thank you for everything

Mandy G

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What Home-Start has done for me and my family –

As a professional working with families myself, I had encountered Home-Start in other areas and recognise them as a charity providing support to families with children aged up to 5. Though I had had no direct involvement previously, when crisis struck our family, Home-Start was high on my list to contact and I made a self referral.

At that point I had no grasp of how important that referral would be, and today I cannot comprehend what life would have been like without our Home-Start volunteer.

June 2017, I had a Stroke. I was 34 and mother to a 22 month old. I was kept in hospital for three weeks, initially being fed by a tube and unable to do many things I had previously taken for granted. My other half works full time and overnight became my partner and my carer. He took responsibility for our daughter as we started on our family journey of recovery after brain injury. A new world neither of us had been expecting as we started our lives together as parents.

Unable to look after myself or our daughter we needed help. On my initial return home I could do very little, and was subsequently signed off sick for over a year from my job and had daily visits from professionals providing rehab.

We were sinking as a family, exhausted and overwhelmed. Friends and family support was limited with extended family having their own health concerns and friends doing what irregular care they could provide wile managing their own lives.

I contacted Home-Start wile feeling desperate, and guilt ridden as I was not being the mother I wanted to be. As a previously very active, hands on mother, this was my single biggest concern at the time beyond my own health needs.

At the outset I was impressed with the home visit conducted by our local Home-Start coordinator, Lindsay. She undertook an in-depth holistic assessment of our needs and showed clear understanding of the impacts my brain injury was having not just on me but on our family as a whole. She prompted me with appropriate questions enabling me to verbalise hurdles I hadn’t even realised were hurdles. The full assessment took into account practical emotional and financial concerns. Lindsay instantly put me at ease and I was able to share this very personal and difficult conversation with her, I felt safe and that good things would come. This meeting gave me hope which at the time was invaluable.

A behind the scenes matching process took place and not long after the initial assessment our family was paired with a volunteer. After initial introductions it was encouraged that we work directly with our new volunteer discuss what would work for us and what help they could provide.

Megan, our Home-Start volunteer quickly became my salvation. I am going to really struggle to find the words that would encompass all that she has done for me and our family.  I have no doubt without her input, practical help, reassurance, guidance and friendship we would be in a far worse place than we are today. My health has improved, our daughter is thriving and my partner able to be a carer and sustain a full time job all as a direct result of having Megan in our lives as a Home-Start Volunteer.

I am now receiving Personal Independence Payments (PIP) largely thanks to Home-Start. This was lengthy process which started with me not thinking I should to apply at all, unable to fathom how to even begin the process even if I wanted to. The nature of my brain injury has left me with a hidden disability, neurological fatigue, cognitive issues and right side weakness. My partner was under a lot of pressure to maintain his job, me and our daughter. I was just about coping with daily life, and sometimes not. My condition left me bed bound if not managed well. I would exhort myself and end up floored, quite literally. Part of my rehab has been learning to manage these ongoing issues.  Megan initiated the benefit claim by helping make several appointments at our local ‘Citizens Advice Bureau’, then taking me to them, advocating during them, caring for me before and after them, helping to fill out application forms as a result of them, and as such making it all happen. This took over several weeks. My application was successful and we now have some financial support and recognition of my disability.

As a family we are lovers of good food, and family meal time. Previously we enjoyed hosting friends for dinner. Food is really important to us, and particularly ensuring our daughter has home cooked balanced meals. Megan has helped us maintain this family value. Not only by helping to batch cook and freeze portions of varied dinners ready to be heated with minimal effort but at key times in our family calendar. With Megan’s very hands on practical support I was able to host a surprise birthday meal at home for my partner, and invite a few friends. This was a huge undertaking for me, but something I really wanted to do. I have been unable to socialise and felt quite isolated at times, this was a big milestone. Megan helped with all aspects including meal planning, organising, shopping, cooking, setting the table, ensuring I was looking after myself and that our daughter was entertained.

I really missed being able to activities, take my daughter out to play groups or even to the park. This had a negative impact on my mental health as I felt I was failing as a mother and that my daughter was missing out because of me. Megan has facilitated so many day trips including a trip to Odds Farm the tickets for which were provided by Home-Start. Megan has helped me do things with my daughter I really would struggling to do on my own, we’ve been places we would not have been able to go. One of my favourite memories from Odds Farm day trip is the Easter egg hunt, seeing my daughter laughing walking hand and hand with Megan through thick mud collecting eggs and later kicking a football around. At times when I have really needed to rest, Megan has positively encouraged me to take it, and given me emotional and physical permission to do so as I knew she was there to step in and take parental responsibility. She has enabled me to gain confidence and enjoy family life again.

My recovery over the last year would not have been as successful if it was not for Home-Start. Besides the obvious help getting me to and from medical appointments, allowing me to rest and applying strategies in the home to assist with daily tasks, it’s provided a highly valued friend. Someone who is also a mother with an understanding of the normal struggles related to raising a small child. My daughter loves her, and we all look forward to visits from our ‘Fairy Godmother’. She brings a spring in her step, and boundless positivity, all delivered with sensitivity and humour.

Thank you Home-Start, from Jenny, Chris and Emily.

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September 2018 –

We just had our younger son and my husband was diagnosed with general anxiety and depression at the same time. With no family support around I struggled to remain positive for our future. I was offered support from Home-Start which I took gladly but with reservations as I did not know what to expect. I thought “how could a complete stranger be any help with all our emotional issues,” and then Dhanisha our Home-Start volunteer arrived. She was warm, kind, approachable and a mum of two young children just like me. She seamlessly fitted in with our routine every week for the 2 hour visit. Just to be able to talk to someone who could relate to my problems was a great release emotionally. She was fantastic with my older boy who was going through a jealous and aggressive stage due to the new baby’s arrival. With her help, going out to the playground became a breeze as before I did not have the motivation and energy to do so. I think I can honestly say I have found a friend in Dhanisha, all thanks to Home-Start.

Erika