VOLUNTEERS can make a huge difference to the lives of others just by bringing their experience to bear.
When Jane Hanford moved to Dorset two-and-a-half years ago she wanted to give something to the community, so she looked into volunteering opportunities.
She had never heard of Home-Start West Dorset, a charity that supports struggling families, but quickly realised her own experience as a parent and her level-headed approach to life could be the anchor a family might need.
After training she was assigned to a family and for the last 18 months has been visiting them weekly, being a sounding board, friend and confidant.
“I like volunteering because I really love being able to look after a family,” she said. “I know they all look forward to my visit and it is really nice to bring a little light relief and a bit of fun and support to them, to tell them how well they are doing and make them feel better.”
Her regular visits are an opportunity for the family to let off steam and air their worries and frustrations. “Sometimes when you have a problem and there’s no one to share it with the walls can close around you,” said Jane. “But if you can talk to somebody and they are understanding or can help you to look at another person’s point of view, that is a big help.”
I know they all look forward to my visit and it is really nice to bring a little light relief and a bit of fun and support to them
She sees herself as more of a friend than a surrogate parent. “I can bring the wisdom of my years of experience to something, but I am not there to give advice and guidance. It is more about helping them to arrive at a decision by themselves,” she said.
“I can see how the family has come along in the last year and how everybody is getting on better with each other. I don’t know whether my little bit of input has helped that, but it is so nice to see.”
She wouldn’t hesitate to encourage others to volunteer for Home-Start. “If somebody who is pretty grounded, has good common sense themselves and wants to give back, I would wholeheartedly recommend this because it is so rewarding,” she said.
“It’s a real joy to support a family that is struggling a bit and just lift them.”
Volunteers’ Week is supported and celebrated by small grassroots organisations as well as larger, household-name charities, who together run hundreds of activities across the UK. These activities showcase and celebrate volunteers and the contribution volunteering makes in our communities.
Volunteers’ Week 2021 is a time to say thanks. It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response. During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life around the UK have taken the time to volunteer and make a huge difference to their communities – just as they do every year. This is a time for us to come together and thank all volunteers for their invaluable contribution.
This 37th annual Volunteers’ Week is taking place during the #MonthofCommunity. Running throughout June, #MonthOfCommunity brings together organisations with a range of events in order to encourage us all to think about and join in with activities happening in our local communities.
Find volunteering opportunities in Dorset here or in the BCP area here.