Every volunteer’s experience is different, but each one has an inspiring story to tell. Here a few of them share how it really feels like to work directly with a family and be welcomed into their home.
Read about the stories from our volunteers. To view a story, either click on the title or the small plus symbol on the right hand side of the sections below. The title will expand to show the whole story.
Hauwa - “I came to England in 2001 from Nigeria...."
“I came to England in 2001 from Nigeria, originally just for a holiday. I was living at this time in permanent fear of my husband’s violence. My family did not support me; they felt it was my duty as a wife under Islamic law, to put up with whatever life he wanted to give me. He was very wealthy and as I was just one of his four wives I had no power.
“During this family holiday I took the opportunity to escape from this life, from my husband and family. I felt that for the safety of my children and myself, I had no choice. “He basically gave me 2 options, to either go back with him to Nigeria or stay in England with my youngest child, homeless and with no money. I had 2 older children who would be cared for by his other wives. “I was terribly depressed and isolated at this time. My life consisted of taking my son to school and then picking him up. Nothing else. I missed my children desperately and worried for their well-being.
“In 2004 I saw an advert for Home-Start. My youngest son was 5 so I did not qualify for help but I thought that if I couldn’t get a Volunteer then I would become one! I was accepted onto the course and immediately benefited from the Home –Start Barnet companionship of all the others and from learning that I was not the only one in this situation.
“One of the first families I supported were themselves dealing with immigration issues and I helped them by going to court hearings with them. Through this I learnt so much about the process, what to expect and what was expected from me in these situations. I felt so good feeling that I was able to make a difference to someone else’s life and this helped me with my confidence as a person. “Home-Start Barnet put me in touch with a course on immigration which helped me further. I learnt about my rights, criteria’s, housing and where to go for help. It helped to empower me in my fight to regain my family’s lives.
“Through these experiences I have learnt how to be independent and strong. I now have my older children back with me and we live together as a family in Barnet. On 6th March 2008 I was granted the indefinite right to live here. “I have since undergone training in childcare and am working with an adviser at the Job Centre to find work. I continue to volunteer with Home-Start because I still feel that I have so much to give others and home-Start gives me the ability to do this. Thank you so much Home-Start for helping me achieve this.”
Diane Akers - “I've been on both sides of the fence so to speak ....."
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence so to speak, having had my own volunteer, attending the safer families group for domestic violence and now volunteering myself.
“I must admit at first I knew very little about Home-Start, and was quick to learn it was not only an amazing supportive charity, but some of it’s key objectives are to empower families, to give belief and strength. The tools, if you will, and guidance to help everyone progress, succeed and most importantly help families to achieve this themselves.
“My volunteer gave me the much needed courage, confidence, emotional support and importantly the ability to start gaining trust in others. Bringing up twins alone and in my circumstances was difficult. It really helped during the toughest of times to have someone there, a confidant, who wasn’t going to judge, a person I could share my worries, fears, also achievements and of course that all important listening ear.
“The safer families project, opened my eyes, if I’m working with anyone now that has had domestic violence within the family and when I feel the time is right, I advocate they consider attending, giving the reassurance it’s neither probing or judgemental. It’s knowledgeable, inspiring, educational and without being patronising. Where no one forces you to speak or share, though it can be emotional, you can speak in confidence in a very supportive environment. Of course at first you are nervous, then you realise in one way or another you all have a common ground and a common goal. It helped me come out the other side and realise so many factors. To feel empowered and to see what an amazing amount of strength I had gained. I knew the very moment when my time with Home-Start and safer families had finished and possibly on reflection, even midway through, I strongly hope it wouldn’t be the end of my involvement with them.
“A little over two years ago I finished my training and have gone on to support families myself. Home-Start offer us as volunteers a vast amount of support too, our well being is never forgotten. Having regular reviews to see not only how the families being supported are, but also ourselves. I’m often asked, don’t you have enough on your plate Diane? Yes I do, but I also know, I can always do more. The times I’ve been told, volunteering isn’t worth it, you are crackers, what do you get from it? So I say; As a volunteer it’s about giving, this isn’t about me, it’s knowing that someone in the bleakest of moments has your support and we could be the very difference that a family need. Seeing families positively change, to grow right in front of you and being there to witness their own achievements is more than enough. And if that doesn’t sway you, you gain so much more knowledge, the amount you can learn, not only on the spot but from the huge array of courses and workshops available to us, if anything you would be crackers not to volunteer! Home-Start Barnet is a phenomenal charity to be a part of, it’s a superb team, more like a family and that includes every single one of us. I look forward to its continued growth and to many more years of being part of a such fantastic organisation. –Thank-you.”
Gavin - “My children having left home recently I wanted to...."
“My children having left home recently I wanted to contribute back into wider society, fill my spare time, and see for myself whether a UK charity can be effective in making change happen. Enter Home Start Barnet. I set out on my journey with three objectives. First to assess whether the charity was organised and professional. Second to see whether they were effective in their role, and third to discover what society really consists of on my own doorstep.I have today completed the Volunteer training course to be a HSB volunteer.
“I have been immensely impressed with the approach and standard of the training provided on this eight day course. The HSB staff and external speakers alike were of the highest calibre. The course ran to schedule with each session controlled, organised and effective in its message. Most important of all the course was held within a supportive environment and ran under a set of agreed principles which included mutual respect for others and their views. This facilitated a series of open and honest discussions where all present were able to share their experiences. The course has left me confident in knowing what is expected of me and happy that I will have the backing of a professional team to call upon for support and advice when it is needed.
- Objective one: professional and organised? Yes.
- Objective two: effective in their role? It certainly looks like it.
“My thanks to Luci and the team at HSB.”
Huma Imam - “I joined the Home Start Barnet team as a volunteer......"
Huma Imam – Volunteer/Group Play Worker
“I joined the Home Start Barnet team as a volunteer in September 2012. Since then I have become a part of a hard working and determined team. In February 2013 I started admin work in the office for just a few hours every week.
“Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that I felt I had been there for years. In the same year a new job became available and in July 2013 I took on a new challenge and was part of the Home start Barnet group play worker staff.
“I very much enjoy working for Home Start Barnet and love children as I also work for a primary school.”
Tinuke – “I first heard of Home-Start when I had my first child....."
Tinuke – Community Coaching Volunteer
“I first heard of Home-Start when I had my first child. I was given a leaflet by my health visitor and remember thinking ‘I will volunteer one day’. I could see immediately that Home-Start offered a service I felt was worth supporting. Thirteen years and three children later I found myself working with Home-Start Barnet as they were accessing a service provided by my employers.
“I was then determined to volunteer and I did. I was so excited to get involved and couldn’t wait to start the training and was privileged to be able to do both the core work and the Step Up training. Not only did I get to meet new people which is always a plus, but the training was informative, practical and in some cases eye opening! Obviously for confidentiality reasons I cannot give too much detail about the family but I will tell you what I can: I was matched with a single mother of a teenage boy who was involved in gangs and drugs. I was excited to meet them, it had taken me 13 years to get to this point and I was ready for whatever Home-Start was going to throw at me. Also, as a mother of a teenage boy myself I was very interested in the situation.
“Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Was the father in the picture at all? I knew this was the mother in me trying to justify and explain, but very quickly I realised this was not the issue and the real questions should be: how can we make this better? What help can we offer? How can I support the family through this? There was no question that the mother was happy to have me there, I cannot tell you what support I gave her specifically but just to say that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is true. Being a sounding board, a listening ear, a consistent presence and a non-judgmental friendly face seemed to work wonders. I cannot say enough about the need to be non-judgmental as this mum had heard from pretty much everyone that her son’s behaviour was her fault.
“My time with my family was great; yes there were issues to be sorted out but we did our best to help where we could. Behind all of this was a young lad dealing with many changes in his life, struggling to get the right balance, and a mum who was doing her very best. They just needed a little bit of support to get through.”
Kerry "Before starting the women’s support group, I hadn’t spoken..."
Kerry – Home Visiting and Admin Volunteer
“Before starting the women’s support group, I hadn’t spoken about the issues I was having with my son’s father to anyone. I was too scared to reach out, feeling as if no one understood. I went to the group on the first day feeling apprehensive, my confidence was very low. I had bottled up my emotions for so long, I felt ashamed, guilty and I blamed myself for staying in an abusive relationship for so long.
It didn’t take long for me to start to relax, the other women were so friendly and I quickly began to open up it felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I looked forward to the group each week and bonded with the other women who were so supportive and understanding. Each week I learnt something new and I realised that I wasn’t the one to blame and I shouldn’t feel guilty. I started to understand what abuse was and I knew I never wanted to go back. Being part of the women support group gave me a chance to offload my emotions, it gave me the tools and knowledge to make positive changes in my life. Instead of living day by day I started to think about the future and what I wanted for myself and for my son. It helped me understand the impact the relationship had on my son and how I could sit and talk to him. Since leaving the group things have only got better I feel as if I have begun to find myself again. My confidence and self-esteem have soared. I feel healthier both physically and mentally. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the group I wouldn’t be where I am today and the most exciting thing is I know things will only get better.”