We need more great valley volunteers to help families

Homestart worker Charlie Johnston in her office at Nanholme Mill, Shaw Wood Road, Todmorden.
Homestart worker Charlie Johnston in her office at Nanholme Mill, Shaw Wood Road, Todmorden.

An organisation offering help to families with very young children has some great volunteers in the Calder Valley - the only problem is, there aren’t enough of them.

Home-Start Calderdale volunteers - who are all parents - already provide many families in the upper Calder Valley with a helping hand if they need it, the only criteria for families being that they have a child under the age of five.

With the pressure to be “good” parents as exacting as it has ever been, the more volunteers Home-Start Calderdale has in the Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Luddenden Foot and other upper valley areas, the more help it can offer, says Home-Start Calderdale co-ordinator Linda Crowther.

“When people in the Calder Valley have become volunteers with us, they stick with us. Our earliest registered volunteers in the upper valley are still with us - but we need more of them,” she said.

Linda explained that training as a volunteer, following a short interview to assess that you are suitable, was undertaken on a 40-hour training course run over ten weeks. The commitment once trained was about two hours a week but she stressed the key was reliability, that volunteers will go to their allocated family every week while support was needed. Support could cover a very wide range of issues.

“Some families may have twins or triplets and just need another pair of hands to help them get out of the house or do things around the house for a while. Or it can be something more complex, for example a mother with post-natal depression, or struggling because of domestic violence or a child may be subject to a child protection plan,” she said.

“Our volunteers are all parents and their role is saying ‘I know how you feel.’ They can draw on their own experience of parenthood - you may have found it difficult yourself but come through it, and know parenthood is a 24/7 job.”

Home-Start Calderdale’s full time staff are co-ordinators like Charlie Johnston, who is the upper valley co-ordinator based at the Nanholme Mill, Shaw Wood Road, Todmorden, project outpost.

They assess a family’s needs but the volunteers give the practical support, whether it is emotional or practical.

“We ask parents what they are struggling with and what our volunteers can help them with and do it on a weekly basis,” said Linda. “This can be advice on shopping on a budget, developing cooking skills, or just someone the parents can talk to. It could be time spent watching the children while a parent gets jobs done around the house or has a bath. It could be a matter of weeks parents need the help or a couple of years - the average time we help a family is around nine months.

“Experienced volunteers come to the preparation course to tell new volunteers what their role is like. We need men as well as women, and if you think you can help, we’d love to hear from you.”

l If you would like to become a volunteer, in the first instance contact Charlie Johnston on 01706 816823 or Linda Crowther on 01422 242124.