With limited transport options and fewer services available for people living outside of central city areas, families can find themselves stressed and lonely – often with no one to turn to.
Luckily for some families living in the City of the Shire Yarra Ranges, volunteers like Bernadette are working with the Home Start program to provide mentoring, and practical and emotional support.
Home Start offers early intervention support, friendship and practical parenting insights for families with at least one child who is eight years of age or younger. In Yarra Ranges it is run by Uniting Connections. While the work being done has already made a powerful and positive difference in the local community, more volunteers are needed to keep it going.
Bernadette started volunteering at Home Start in 2015, after her last child finished school.
“With experience as a mother and grandmother, when I heard about Home Start, it just sounded great. The chance to support local mums so they know they’re not alone – it’s really special to know I’m a part of that.”
“I’ve worked with a few families since I got involved – families that may be facing extra challenges and stresses in their lives. Usually I meet with mum or the family once a week at their home and just have a general catch-up. I simply listen and we share how the week has been, or give information on services available in the area, such as playgroups.”
Volunteers are taken through a specialised training program with the Uniting Connections team, and given a supportive coordinator who they can go to with any questions that may arise. After the training, volunteers connect with a family who they visit for a few hours once a week.
“Having been a parent myself, I can really appreciate first-hand some of the challenges these parents are facing. Sometimes, just knowing someone is there, even once a week – it’s amazing the difference it can make.”
“It’s a great chance to meet other volunteers with an array of life experiences, and being a part of a bigger group like Uniting, you feel supported every step of the way.”