vol-un-teer
noun
a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertakes a task.
verb
freely offer to do something.

Nice, isn’t it, that notion? And such a simple concept.
And yet, a rarity. Something that many of us, traversing the countless terrains of life, don’t often stumble across. It’s something ‘other people’ do.

Earlier this year, my colleagues and I attended a conference run by Parents 1st and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, ‘The Power of Volunteering’. This event brought together charities and organisations with one common focus – improving the experience of pregnancy and early parenting for all.

I.WAS. BLOWN. AWAY.

By the thinking.
It was insightful, and staggeringly simple – as the most profound realisations always are.
By the people.
Individuals who fizzed with passion and focus and desire and so many ideas.
By the research.
Did you know that 97.2% of….in fact, you don’t need to know the about the data and the statistics and all the quantifiable ‘proven’ stuff about the impact of volunteers on new parents.
You just need to know that it’s working. Big time.

In so many small pockets of the country, volunteers with lived experience of exactly the thing they are supporting others with, are making a huge and most powerful difference within families, across peer groups and amongst whole communities. The uniquely potent combination of empathy, safety, care and, above all, TIME, sits so delightfully in that gap the NHS just simply cannot even begin to occupy routinely. That no-man’s land outside medical intervention that has no budget/doesn’t quite make the referral criteria/cannot be offered a prescription…there is now a man for that land.
The volunteer.

By reaching out to new and expectant parents, volunteers have such a very real, very accessible, and so very much needed, whopping great opportunity to affect real change; on how we live today, and on the society we will inhabit tomorrow, next month and next decade.

Volunteering is the change we need to see across health and social care in our current society.

But this effective, well managed kind of volunteering – that is delivered with rigor and accountability and constant reflection and response – it is in the minority. But it is there. Waiting for, rooting for, the ground-swell of realisation that can be, could be, so staggeringly powerful.

And it was then I realised, that it’s here too. In my locality of Widnes and Runcorn.
I have been blessed with nine of the most committed, selfless, passionate volunteers I could ever have wished for who, on a weekly basis, for the sake of training, bared their souls to the rest of the group. Like it’s nothing to offer up your history, your fears, some of your very darkest times, so openly and boldly.
But they knew that by doing this, they could help others.

They learnt from each other’s experiences. They practised and rehearsed and examined just how it would be when they came to support others who are living what they once lived. They arranged childcare and lifts and public transport and moved appointments. They chased paperwork and coursework and attend around work.
Because they knew that by doing this, they could help others.

And now that training is complete. Slowly, tentatively, our very first referrals are beginning to come through. And those women in our mind’s-eye, that we came together for, those women who just need someone to really hear them…they are IN THE ROOM. In the flesh. Being helped.
By nine truly fabulous volunteers.
Who now, do help others.

As we build our service, our confidence and our client list, we also hope to build on our key resource. Our magnificent volunteers.

If you think you could offer support to pregnant women and new mums across Widnes and Runcorn, and have yourself experienced mental health difficulties at this time, please email parentsinmind.halton@nct.org.uk

Because by doing this, maybe you too could help others?

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