Everyone needs a bit of help sometimes

By Angie Ahmed
Volunteer Recruitment and Development Co-ordinator

Many parents need help, friendship, advice or support in the early years when their children are young. Sometimes raising a family can be overwhelming, particularly if your family is going through difficult times or if you have twins or triplets.

Local charity Home-Start Richmond can help if you have a child or several children under five and are experiencing difficulties. Are you feeling isolated, with no family or friends nearby? Or suffering with post-natal illness but finding it hard to talk to anyone about it? Or struggling to cope with the demands of two babies or toddlers? You could be supported by a volunteer who would visit you at home for a few hours a week to offer emotional and practical help. Last year, Home-Start Richmond’s volunteers helped over 240 families with 544 children in the borough of Richmond upon Thames. All volunteers have parenting experience themselves, are thoroughly trained and CRB checked.

Ruth’s* story

Ruth’s health visitor suggested she call Home-Start Richmond, as she was suffering from post natal depression and felt that she was unable to cope with being a mother to both children, extremely anxious that she could not possibly give both children the love and attention that she felt they needed. Ruth could not see how she would be able to manage her home or self, had lost all sense of routine and felt her decision making skills were suffering. Prior to the twins being born she had a successful career in a Bank was extremely organised and therefore could not understand how or why she was feeling the way she did.

Home-Start matched a volunteer with Ruth who also had twins and coincidently had also had a successful career in a Bank. Initially the volunteer supported Ruth practically as an extra pair of hands allowing her some respite and to do little things that she felt was important, e.g. preparing dinner for her partner. The volunteer also helped to take the twins to clinic, doctors and other appointments and was supportive with suggestions having experienced twins herself. Ruth was able to confide in the volunteer helping her to feel ‘normal’.

Ruth also attended the Home-Start Family Group which supported her in setting up a routine as it meant that she had to organise both herself and children to get out in the morning by a certain time. The group also gave Ruth emotional support as she felt it was a safe venue to share feelings. The Family Group also supported her with suggestions and practical help when there were issues regarding the children that she was unsure of.

Ruth has grown in confidence and ability throughout the year and has now returned to work part time, saying ‘It would be difficult to say in one sentence how much Home-Start Richmond has helped’.

Salma’s* story

Salma was referred to Home-Start Richmond after the birth of her premature twins. She needed emotional help as she was very isolated as well as practical support with providing stimulation and play opportunities for the children. Her first baby had feeding difficulties and on-going developmental delay and, after numerous hospital visits, was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The parents were very upset and found it hard to come to terms with the additional needs of the eldest child, especially when compared with the other.

Home-Start Richmond matched Salma with a volunteer who visited once a week. She accompanied Salma on visits to hospital and went alongside her to playgroups and activities within the community for both children. She provided emotional support for both parents- listening to Salma’s anxieties and helping her to identify which behaviours were typical of the child’s age and stage of development, in particular helping her not to compare constantly and get anxious about the children’s different levels of development.

The volunteer also sometimes looked after both children to allow Salma to have some respite or time for household tasks. She also helped Salma to prepare food to ensure that the family ate well throughout the week, in between numerous appointments.

The family was also signposted to Me Too and Co, Crossroads and Richmond Aid who all support families with children with additional needs. Salma now attends groups regularly and has made friends with other parents. Both children are engaging in age appropriate play and activities with Salma and the volunteer. With Home-Start help, Salma has now built up more confidence to manage both children on her own but also to accept additional support when she needs it.

More information

If you or someone you know could benefit from Home-Start support, talk to your Health Visitor or contact us on 020 8487 8500 or . You can also find out more at www.homestart-richmond.org.uk.


Help from Homestart – or as I call it, help from a guardian angel!

Petra is a member of Twickenham Twins club and recently she became a committee member.  Here is her story…

We were referred by our Health Visitor to Homestart, a voluntary agency to help families.

When we first found out that we were having twins it started to scare me as we don’t have anybody around us to help. My family live in Austria and my husband’s family don’t live close by either, so this referral was a very nice surprise and an opportunity to share some of the burden. After three months being at home with the twins on my own, I was in desperate need of some help and sleep.

We first met our volunteer in March last year, as it does take a while to find a good match, but it was important to me to find somebody who had experience with twins.  At first I wasn’t sure how our lady was able to help us as I wanted to do everything myself and  show people that I  could cope.

It took a good few weeks for me to get used to a stranger being in my home and helping me with the babies and chores around the house. Our lady who came once a week for few hours has got a heart of gold, and  you don’t find many people nowadays who would do anything to help somebody for free. I wish I had started to open up more at the beginning and accepted help but as mentioned before it does take a while to get used to being helped.

We were able to have our lady for over a year, and I am very grateful about that. Not only did I have practical help, I also had emotional support which is very important when I was stuck in the house on my own with two sick babies for weeks.

I can only recommend to accept other peoples help, even if it’s only a chat over a cup of coffee.