This month I was asked to speak at the Home-Start UK 50th Birthday celebrations. Home-Start is a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times.
I was asked to speak at the celebrations because my mum set up one of the first Home-Start branches in Leicestershire, UK. This idea started in one woman’s living room in Leicester, my home city, and has spread across the UK supporting 1.5 million children. It is now a global movement with 22 countries on five continents.
My dominant memory of my mum working for Home-Start was from the summer of 1984. I was 14 years old. 38 years ago. My mum was supporting a young single mum who was suffering from depression. This mum had recently moved into a council house in one of the Leicestershire villages. I spent lots of time playing with this mum’s little girl whilst my mum listened to her mum talk. I remember both mums drank lots of tea in the kitchen whilst we played in the garden. We also spent one weekend painting the house together. My mum had also been a single mum who had also suffered from depression.
This Home-Start mum came to my mum’s funeral over 20 years later. My mum’s funeral was one of the toughest days of my life but to see this mum at the funeral gave me incredible comfort. It was wonderful to see her after so many years. She told me at the funeral that my mum had been an invaluable support at a very tough time in her life and that she was not sure how she would have got through that time without my mum. She also told me that her daughter had gone to university. She was so, so proud to share this news with me.
This experience directly influenced my career choice. After university, I studied to be a teacher and since then I have worked in schools in the UK, Asia, Africa and South America. In every new community, I have always volunteered to support children and their families.
Whenever I have observed a change in behaviour with a child or young person in my schools or volunteering communities, I have always stepped back to consider if the change in behaviour is possibly because mum is struggling. Often my instincts have been right and I have been able to show a mum extra kindness, care and support to help her child.
As Margaret Harrison, the Founder of Home-Start, said, “it is important to focus on parents, their wellbeing and emotional needs”. I know first hand that this is crucial when we are raising, and supporting, children and their families.