Donna Barr, Home Start co-ordinator, explains to YLP’s Nat how the charity helps families. Picture: Tony Jones

When I became a parent, it became clear very quickly there is no manual to show us how to bring up our youngsters.

One thing I did learn from my own experience is how vital support is, especially in those early years before school comes to the rescue.

However, for many reasons, not everyone has help at hand, but there is Home-Start.

The charity recruits volunteers to provide an extra pair of hands to families who could do with a bit of help.

It could be anything from a new mum who has just had triplets to a parent who is struggling with a disability.

“We are quite rural and some people live out in the sticks, so isolation is common, as well as mental health issues and postnatal depression,” said Donna Barr, co-ordinator for Home-Start Norfolk.

Home-Start has been around in the borough since 1974, with many volunteers remaining friends with their families for years following their visits.

Donna said: “I have one volunteer who has been with us for 12 years, she has really racked up the support she has given families over the years.”

The charity has around 30 volunteers on its books, but Donna says she would like to double the figure.

I ask her if there is any age restriction for anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer.

“No, in fact people in their 60s and 70s often have the most patience and all that experience behind them. We have also had men in the past. Sometimes there isn’t a male role model in the family,” she said.

Following an eight-week training programme, which is within school hours, volunteers are ‘matched’ with a family.

But what happens if the volunteer and family don’t gel?

“It’s human nature, it happens,” Donna said. “There’s never any embarrassment, we will find another family.”

The only ‘qualification’ to become a volunteer is experience of bringing up children. After all, it can be therapeutic comparing the sleepless nights and the endless washing!

The next intake for volunteer training is Tuesday, March 20. To find out more email admin@homestartnorfolk.org

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