Volunteer Janet Cracknell says it is a “real privilege” helping families and being part of a charity’s crucial Help at Home service. Janet gives up a morning a week to assist a family being supported by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
The Help at Home service matches volunteers with a family so they can provide vital practical support with things they might not otherwise have the time to do. The everyday chores include everything from cooking, gardening, decorating and dog-walking to cleaning, shopping, ironing and DIY.
Janet, who lives in East Bergholt, has been volunteering for nearly five years and, since September, has been helping a Colchester-based family receiving care and support at The Treehouse, in Ipswich.
“I see it as a real privilege,” said the 71-year-old, who is married to Garth.
“It’s very special having the opportunity to support a family, build relationships and be welcomed into their house. They’re always so grateful and amazed that you’re prepared to give up your time to help them.
“It really is my pleasure, though, and I consider it such an important part of my life. It’s so satisfying and worthwhile. These parents need help. Some hardly get any sleep and we all know how horrible it is looking around your own house and seeing things that need doing.
“When you have cleaning to do or a big pile of ironing, it can become disheartening – especially if you know it’s going to be impossible to get to.
“That’s why it’s so nice to be in a position to help. It’s a release for them and makes a real difference, meaning they can focus and channel all their energy into their children.
“You get to form a bond with your family. You develop relationships and often the parents seem to enjoy having someone to talk to. That alone can make a real difference.”
Dog-lover Janet is no stranger to volunteering and herself and her husband give up to look after and foster springer spaniels. She previously helped at St Elizabeth Hospice, in Ipswich, and jumped at the chance to join EACH’s Help at Home team.
“I had time on my hands and wanted to help,” said the mum of two, who also has four grandchildren. I saw an advert for the service and knew I wanted to get involved.
“My current family is my fifth and, in the last five years, I’ve done everything from gardening and cleaning to dog-walking – the latter, especially, during lockdown. It’s important to be flexible, so you can fit in with a family’s busy life. It might be that they have people coming round or hospital appointments.
“However, as long as you’re willing to work around them, I think it’s something lots of people would enjoy and it’s definitely something I’d recommend. When you first meet your family, you so often get a good feel and know you’re going to gel.”
Before retiring, Janet had clerical jobs with schools and solicitors and was a front desk station clerk for Suffolk Constabulary. EACH supports families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions.
In addition to The Treehouse, it has two other hospices – The Nook, near Norwich, and at Milton, near Cambridge. To read more about Help at Home, click here.