My Memories of Home-Start - by a Health Visitor

Working as a health visitor in Exeter for the last 20 years, I have witnessed first hand the amazingly positive impact a Home-Start volunteer has on families. It’s all about knowing that someone cares, that someone will be there week on week to lend a listening ear, a helping hand, a break from the most difficult job in the world – being a parent!

I was involved in Home-Start from 1992 until 1997 when I was working as a health visitor at Mount Pleasant Health Centre. It was during the period that Home-Start applied for one of the first BBC Children in Need grants. In those days the BBC people actually visited Home-Start. There was huge excitement and much hand shaking and we were all on our best “enthusing about Home-Start” behaviour, which of course came easily to us!  Needless to say we got the grant and Home-Start was able to continue offering their much needed services to families in Exeter.  The 2 hour inspection was a far cry from my 15 minute telephone conversation a few months ago from the BBC when applying for funding recently!

In those days, 2 lovely ladies, Pam and Lesley, were in charge. We held fetes, car boot sales and coffee mornings to boost the project. I visited the Drop-In monthly to give advice to mums on childcare and also ran a few parenting courses. I think families came to Home-Start because they felt safe and it was a gentle, non judgmental, friendly environment.

I know that Home-Start Exeter and East Devon has survived on a shoe string through the sheer commitments and hard work of staff, committee members and volunteers alike. Where would we be without people like you?

It’s people like me who work on the front line who see the positive impact Home-Start volunteers can have on a family. Over the years I have referred countless families who have used workd like ’gem’ or ‘a life saver’ to describe their volunteers. In turn I’ve heard volunteers describe their experiences as life changing and have subsequently trained for caring careers. It’s a win win situation that couldn’t exist without organisation and management.

To me the core of Home-Start is felt in this poem:

If I had known the troubles you were bearing
What grief lay beyond the silence of your face
I would have been more gentle and caring
And brought a little gladness to your face.
If I had known what thoughts despairing drew you
Why do we never understand?
I would have slipped my hand in your lonely hand
And made your stay more pleasant in the land
If I had known.

Author unknown

And that’s what Home-Start does, brings hope, kindness and understanding to those who need it. I am sure all my colleagues join me in saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has been involved with Home-Start Exeter and East Devon past and present. 

Deborah Sugden

Registered Charity No: 1116385
Registered Company No: 5818942