It has been almost three years since we first matched a volunteer with a family as part of EACH Help at Home!
The service, designed to give families we offer care to practical help around their homes, has since seen volunteers offer more than 2,800 hours of help.
Stephanie Hawley, 33, is among those to have benefited. The single mother from Ipswich, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, lives with her three-year-old daughter. Ella, who attends Hunnitots Day Nursery, has the only ever case of a particular genetic abnormality - triplication of chromosome 16p - epilepsy, developmental delay and behavioural issues. She also has mobility issues and frequently falls.
She has received care from us since the age of just six months, enjoying short breaks at The Treehouse, as well as hydrotherapy sessions to help with her mobility issues and music therapy.
Stephanie and Ella are supported at home by Sadie Kate, also from Ipswich. She has been visiting weekly, usually at weekends for an hour-and-a-half at a time, since August 2018.
Stephanie said: “The support provided by Sadie has made such a positive impact on our family’s life. As a single mum who does shift work and whose child has additional needs, it’s impossible for me to maintain the garden as well as everything else. Without Sadie helping Ella wouldn’t be able to play in the garden. She regularly cuts the grass and carries out work so it’s safe for Ella, and she’s also painted and restored areas so that it looks presentable!”
As well as gardening Sadie Kate hoovers, dusts and tries to carry out any other tasks Stephanie has not been able to get round to. It has not just been beneficial for Stephanie and Ella, though.
Sadie Kate, who works as a referrals officer for CF Social Work, in Ipswich, explained: “I decided to get involved as I’d never volunteered before and was finally in a financial position whereby I could afford to give my free time to a worthy local cause.
“Most importantly, I wanted to strengthen my relationship with children in general as, having been raised as an only child and being without a family of my own, I struggled to interact with children and had resigned myself to the opinion that I simply didn’t like them very much!
“My partner at the time also had a child I was rather anxious about being introduced to and I believed getting involved with EACH could help this. While this relationship didn't last, my relationship with the hospice and my assigned family is still going strong!
“I more than enjoy my work with the charity. Volunteering has opened up opportunities for experiences and relationships that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as part of this process and have been inspired in so many ways by the families who use the hospice, and, indeed, my fellow volunteers.”
EACH Volunteer Manager Hugh McElhinney has led EACH Help at Home since its inception and said it was common for volunteering to be a two-way process.
“The account Sadie Kate’s given of how supporting a family has enriched her life is typical of what we hear from volunteers. The tasks carried out in a visit are so simple, ones that you might not give a second thought to normally, but for parents of children with a life-threatening condition finding the time to do them can be really difficult. Time is so precious and having the support of a volunteer at home gives these parents more opportunity to just be parents, rather than caregivers.”
It is estimated there are currently over 2,000 children and young people in East Anglia who could benefit from our support and as the population grows, and continued improvements in care mean children are able to live longer, that number could grow to as high as 6,000 by 2025. That, in turn, means we are constantly looking for volunteers, no matter how much time they have to give, even if just an hour a month.
Sadie Kate said: “I would tell anyone thinking of volunteering with EACH to jump in feet first! The work is varied and so very rewarding. No day or visit is ever the same, and you can be part of some truly great projects through the hospice. While not always easy, the time spent giving home help is never dull and there’s always a great support network available should you need to seek advice or guidance. There are also some great social events and projects organised throughout the year, at which you can meet and share your experiences with other volunteers and staff.”
EACH Help at Home currently runs in Suffolk and East Essex, and Cambridgeshire and West Essex. It will soon launch in Norfolk to coincide with the opening of our new hospice in the county, the nook. For more information about becoming an EACH Help at Home volunteer contact Hugh on 07714 737139 or at email@example.com.
For those who wish to support EACH in a different way, there are a range of other volunteering opportunities across its shops, offices and hospices. Click here
to find out more.