“This is how you change the world” according to volunteer on Home-Start South East Dorset’s 60th Diamond Volunteer Preparation course.

Nicknamed the ‘Diamond Course’, Home-Start South East Dorset ran its 60th Volunteer Preparation course earlier this year. Felicia Davis from Broadstone in Poole was one of the participants in this milestone training event. For her, lockdown was the trigger to want to help local families in need.

“I was sitting underneath the kitchen table trying to quietly coax my youngest child to sit down and participate in his online learning lesson. It suddenly occurred to me how much more difficult this would be if I wasn’t in a good headspace. I wondered how parents who have anxiety, post natal depression, were grieving, lonely or had multiple children were coping.

As we slowly emerged from the COVID fog, I decided that it wasn’t enough to wonder anymore. I had to ‘do’ something. I found out about Home-Start online, and it made complete sense to me.

The volunteer preparation course was awesome. In life, we tend to surround ourselves with people who have the same interests, beliefs and are at a similar stage in their life as we are. The course threw all that out of the window and asked us to explore the incredible value of learning from people who approach things differently from you. The course leaders created a safe space where everyone’s contribution was helpful and thought-provoking. It was humbling to accept that I had so much more to learn, but that my experience and understanding were also valuable to the other volunteers on the course.”

Felicia Davis, Home-Start South East Dorset volunteer

Having completed the training, Felicia has been matched with a local family in need.

“Even though I’m just getting to know my family, I am confident I can make a difference. I feel prepared by the course and safe in the knowledge that I can speak to Home-Start at any time if I have any issues or questions.

I was worried that ‘just’ listening wouldn’t be enough. But it absolutely is enough when people are vulnerable and need to be heard. This is how you change the world; kindness has a ripple effect that trickles into all aspects of life. It’s so simple, it’s beautiful, being there for someone who realises they need help.

When you are with your family, you know the juggling act of being a parent. You can listen in a non-judgemental way. We are mums, dads, grandparents and guardians, so we know the joy but also the stress that comes with parenting. The best part is that I feel my family and I will grow alongside each other and become ‘more’ together. Master Shifu said it best in Kung Fu Panda 3: “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are now.”

Making a difference to local families was a key incentive for Chris Thomas, who took over as Chair of Home-Start South East Dorset in November last year.

Before joining Home-Start, Chris spent 19 years in operational and strategic roles for the Ambulance Service in Dorset and then another 19 years in Her Majesty’s Coastguard, where he held the position of Deputy Director. Chris chaired the Dorset Race Equality Council for eight years and is also currently Chair of Dorset Recreate.

When Chris saw the advertisement for the Home-Start Chair position last year, he knew it was a great opportunity. During his first few months, he has been immersed in the difference Home-Start volunteers make to families across South East Dorset.

“I have seen what Home-Start offers first-hand and have always been impressed by the tremendous commitment and expertise of the staff and volunteers. I wanted to join and be part of a compassionate and caring team where I could help and support others and give something back to our community. Families are going through some difficult times, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to join an organisation dedicated to making a difference.

The first four months have been fascinating. I have learned so much! I attended a Volunteers Preparation course which gave me a great insight into the challenges families face and the skills and strategies our staff and volunteers use to guide and support those families. I have worked closely with Kathy, our Chief Executive, and my Trustee colleagues to enhance the good governance of the Charity. This means ensuring that we remain viable and sustainable and that we adhere closely to our mission and strategic objectives.

Already, I feel that we have made positive changes. We recently launched telephone and online support for families who may be feeling isolated, anxious or struggling with parenting. Anyone with a child under five years old can get help directly through our website. Our message is: You are not alone.

Looking ahead, as Chair, I remain cognizant that everything we do, every decision we make and every action we take as an organisation has to benefit the families we support. Quite simply, childhood can’t wait.”

Home-Start South East Dorset Diamond Course participants

Home-Start has been training volunteers to help families in need for over 25 years. If you think that you could make a difference, like Felicia, join their next course, which runs from 6th May - 17th June 2022. Contact Home-Start South East Dorset on 01202 574877 or e-mail [email protected] to find out more and book your space.