Home-Start Southwark

We're there for parents when they need us the most, because childhood can’t wait.

We're there for parents when they need us the most, because childhood can’t wait.


Meet some of our Volunteers

Isobel O’Brian

image of Isobel O'Brian

“I came to Home-Start interested in helping where I felt both comfortable and could be of real help to someone who may have experienced the same difficulties as I did when I moved to England with my family. My children were aged one and two, I knew no one and spent long periods of the day on my own. I wish I had known about Home-Start then as it would have been a place of great solace and comfort to me, knowing someone would be there to offer support and companionship to a parent with young children struggling with some of life’s daily challenges. 

Becoming a volunteer was a highly rewarding process. I felt like I had really achieved something once I completed the training, which I hadn’t felt in a long time. We trained in a group, which meant we got to know the other volunteers well and didn’t all feel so ‘new’ each time we came back. I learned to listen but also to speak up when I didn’t know something; the facilitators showed great patience for our endless questions and listened to every single concern voiced all too often by us budding volunteers. They provided thoughtful and intuitive answers, time and time again.

The family I volunteered with was a mother with two young children. We played, walked, talked and went about her daily life for a couple of hours once a week. You cannot know the intimacy and privilege of being allowed into someone’s home until you are sitting in their kitchen with them and they are talking, sharing their worries and struggles with you, a virtual stranger. It is a privilege I will not forget and did not take lightly. Thank God for Home-Start who had prepared me so well!

I am now in my second year of training, studying to be a counsellor, working in a placement at a counselling centre seeing clients each week. It was my work as a volunteer for Home-Start, which laid the boundaries of trust, care, and support that secured my place as a counsellor-in-training.”

Robyn Chys-Crowley

“I had been aware of Home-Start for some time before I applied to be a volunteer. I learned more about Home-Start when a friend looked to them for some support when she was struggling with a toddler and a newborn having moved to an area where she knew no one. The support they gave her was really significant in her being able to cope with a difficult situation. 

Having a child is incredibly challenging, so much of it is daunting and confusing. I have a lot of support from my family and friends, and I still have found things difficult.. The opportunity to volunteer and be a friend to people who need some support is incredibly rewarding. I think it’s so important people know that they are not alone.

I think volunteers can offer something special. A volunteer’s presence is a small act of kindness because a choice has been made by that person to give up their own time. I think it breaks down a barrier between the family and the Home-Start volunteer – the volunteer doesn’t have to be there, they want to be there. 

I really enjoyed the volunteer training course. I signed up knowing I had the right intentions and experiences, but not necessarily the specific knowledge or skills to help a family to the full extent that they deserved. The course taught me about confidentiality, the importance of being non-judgemental, safeguarding of children, skills like active listening, and practical information such as what the Home-Start Volunteer Co-ordinator do to support volunteers. On a personal level I learned through the group sessions just how different we all are, in terms of our values and experiences, and how important it is to recognise this. 

Although I visit my Home-Start family alone, after the initial match visit with my coordinator, I do not feel alone. I feel as though Home-Start has my back; if I’m in a situation that makes me uncomfortable I know that my training has prepared me for that, and if I need further help or information my coordinator or anyone else in the Home-Start Southwark office will be able to help me instantly. I met a lot of the staff during the training course and think that has helped me feel supported. 

At first, visiting a family that I do not know, in their own home, who have complex needs outside of my own experience, made me nervous. I was worried I would offend them by accident, or that they would see me as an extra obligation that they’d prefer not to have. However, I got over this worry very quickly as my Home-Start family are very friendly, and I drew confidence from my training and the fact that my coordinator had matched us. I really enjoy our visits and I am disappointed if they cannot happen for some reason. I think the visits are rewarding on both sides. I can see the family developing and over-coming issues that had seemed insurmountable to them, and as a Home-Start volunteer I’ve been a small part of that. 

 I’ve learned so much from volunteering with Home-Start. I see now that even though we all have very different lives with varying experiences we all worry about the same things when it comes to our children – their health, not enough sleep, healthy food, how to play, education choices, whether we are doing things the ‘right way’, feeling judged, feeling alone. I have enjoyed helping a family feel better about these things, without Home-Start we would have never met despite living in the same area. “

Salimatu Balde

image of Isobel O'Brian

I am Salimatu Balde and I am from Guinea-Bissau but now I live in Southwark with my family.

I joined Home-Start Southwark’s volunteer preparation course in April 2021, and I have been supporting a local family for almost six months.

I was happy to become a Home-Start volunteer, to have the experiences and skills that I have built up over the years to be put in good use, and working as a volunteer helped me to achieve that.

Volunteering with Home-Start is a great way for someone to interact with others in their community; it can help you to gain confidence by giving you the chance to learn new skills, gain experience and make new friends. I always enjoyed helping people, caring about people. I had always wanted to work with people, where I can utilise my communication skills, and to make people happy.

Volunteering is a rewarding experience as we are making a difference to the parents and children, helping them to live a better life without worry. I enjoy helping parents and children that need people to talk to.

Before I started volunteering, I did attend preparation course for 8 weeks, and it was fantastic. During the course I have developed my confidence in meeting new people, as well as learnt a lot about how to support parents and children in their needs and put smile in their faces, learnt how to support children through play, education and confidence through giving them choice. l had opportunity to attend various trainings with Home-Start Southwark – one of them is Being Together, which helps me with some experience, supports and objects that I can use for my volunteering.

At the moment I am supporting a local family by visiting their home and providing support in the form of childcare with educational support, as well as playing with the child to encourage the confidence of playing. Also, I provide emotional support and assist the mother with various tasks such as taking the parent out to prevent feeling isolation.

I really like doing this role as a volunteer and I enjoy the time I spend with others. These months, while volunteering, it made me gain confidence and it helped me a lot. What I enjoy the most about volunteering, is the difference you can make in a person’s life even by helping them just few hours a week, it makes a big difference for a family. It is so rewarding to see changes for better people’s lives.

I appreciated so much being with Home-Start Southwark.