Here in Wingecarribee, parents struggling with everyday pressures are fortunate to have the practical support of Home-Start Australia’s Volunteer Family Home Visits. CEO Michelle McDonell is grateful to have successfully applied for $7,000 in grant funding through Wingecarribee Shire Council’s Community Assistance Grants Scheme, toward training for even more local volunteers to make a difference.
“For more than 20 years, Home-Start Australia has done our very best to help local parents who have young children in their care, and are struggling to survive, to thrive,” Michelle says. “We do this through weekly visits to their home by caring local volunteers who are professionally trained in supporting families in their own home.
Families with new babies or raising young children sometimes face many different issues, that’s why Home-Start assistance is tailor made to suit each individual family.
To fully equip volunteers, the 10 week training course covers vital knowledge such as child protection and development, confidentiality and boundaries, values and attitudes, domestic violence, and the importance of play in early brain development.
“For many parents, a visit by our empathetic volunteers may be their only contact with another adult that week,” Michelle explains. “Simply having someone to share the news that your child has just taken their first steps, makes the joy real.”
In the absence of family or peer support, volunteer involvement can be invaluable. “For example, one new mum needed to keep a medical check-up and our volunteer attended the clinic with her to wait with her young son who lives with a disability,” Michelle says.
The volunteers assist families for whom English is a second language by connecting them with local support services and liaising with their child’s school. “Because our volunteers commit for the long term, the family learns that they can depend on them,” Michelle says. Volunteers also encourage the parents and children to get involved with local supported playgroups to build a supportive network.
If a child is falling behind in their literacy, volunteers will sing to them or read stories, modelling for the parents how important this is for their child’s development. “We model healthy relationships, good parenting and clear communication.” Michelle says.
“Local parents have told us they wouldn’t have survived without our volunteer visits.”
With a growing number of families reaching out for help, it is very good news that there is no shortage of kind-hearted citizens across Wingecarribee willing to volunteer. “Of course, we take the safety and wellbeing of families very seriously, and we rely on grant funding to undertake the comprehensive training required,” Michelle says.
Every cent of the Community Assistance Scheme grant provided by WSC, will be invested back into training more local volunteers for Family Home Visits. “All of the service providers here really pull together to help local families and it’s been wonderful to receive Council’s support for the important work we do, so that we can be there for even more.”
WSC is pleased to see our Community Assistance Scheme making a meaningful impact by helping Home-Start Australia to keep delivering hope, direct to the door of local families who need it.
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