A volunteer has spoken of the “massive fulfilment” she gets helping families being supported by a leading children’s charity. Frances Wyatt is a long-serving Help at Home volunteer for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
The role involves supporting families by providing vital practical support with chores like cooking, cleaning, decorating, gardening, dog-walking and DIY.
Frances has been volunteering for six years and is working with her fifth family. She considers it an “absolute privilege” and would recommend it to others “without hesitation”.
“It’s massively fulfilling and great to be able to make a difference,” said the retired piano teacher, who lives in Three Holes, a village between Ely and Wisbech.
“I go in once a week and clean one room from top to bottom. It’s something the family doesn’t have to worry about and the smallest things make the biggest difference.
“Whatever we do, as volunteers, takes some of the load off and it’s a real privilege to be welcomed into a family’s home. Clearly, there are boundaries and it’s important to not get too close or build too strong a relationship. There are times when we have to step back.
“However, it’s still an opportunity to build a rapport, talk to parents and be a friendly face.”
Frances signed up six years ago and was among the first cohort of Help at Home volunteers at EACH’s Milton hospice. Her husband had been critically ill but was fortunate enough to secure a life-saving transplant.
“I decided I wanted to help people who weren’t as lucky as we’d been,” said the 64-year-old, who gives talks about her role to support EACH’s Events and Fundraising teams.
“I also had a connection with the hospice as my husband was a drummer at that time and his band had played in a couple of fundraising gigs. I looked on the EACH website and that’s when I read about Help at Home.
“To some extent, I understand the pressures families face because of the situation I’d encountered with my husband. Aside from the care side of things, I’m also struck by how much admin they have to contend with, dealing with so much paperwork and so many agencies.
“It can’t be easy but it’s uplifting to see how amazingly well they cope with their situation, showing a resilience and determination to make a good life for themselves. They have happy times and I’m full of respect.”
Frances and fellow volunteer Jo Dive recently took on a one-off gardening project to support a family whose child was receiving end-of-life care at Milton.
They had two sessions – one sorting the back garden and one the front.
“It’s important to stress that potential volunteers don’t have to go into a family’s home, if they’d rather not,” said Frances.
“It might be that they’d rather do some gardening or perhaps walk a dog. Those jobs are just as important and help take the load off. My advice to anyone considering getting involved would be ‘just do it’.
“They’ll find it rewarding and won’t have any regrets. They’ll also get full support and training from EACH’s Help at Home Volunteer Co-ordinator at Milton, Marie Huggins.
“She’s very caring and supportive of all her families and volunteers.”
EACH is always on the lookout for more Help at Home volunteers. To read more about the service, click here.