For #SmallCharitiesWeek, Lara Norris, CEO Home-Start Hertfordshire, talks us through a day in the life of a volunteer manager, and shows us how hard small charities work for their service users.
Jackie of all trades and master of …..everything?
When I first started working at Home-Start one of the things that really interested me was the variety of the role. You never knew what a day would bring. It could involve family court in the morning and making play dough in the afternoon.
Nowadays I am deskbound, but this is not the case for many of the staff who keep the whole operation running across Hertfordshire. This is my homage to them as well as an insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes in a small charity.
A day in the life of a Volunteer Manager (names have been changed to protect the hard working)
The day for Jackie, a Volunteer Manager, starts like many of us with e-mail and a paperwork. Without funding for offices, this is often done on the run, so as well as everything else IT skills are essential.
Jackie drains her coffee cup and it’s straight off to visit a family who has asked for Home-Start’s help. We believe that Home is where support needs to Start (clue is in the name) so after a drive, Jackie arrives at the family’s home.
There can be no rush here, these parents have trusted us with their family and so Jackie takes the time to reassure Mum and Dad and helps the family to set some goals together. Jackie takes time to get to learn about them so that a Volunteer Mentor can be matched to their needs. It is after all one of the things that makes Home-Start different.
After leaving the family feeling safe and reassured with a bit of hope, it is time to head to the community centre where Volunteer Mentors are gathering for a support group. Jackie reminds everyone that family details are confidential. One volunteer is worried that they will be going on holiday and will not be able to visit their family. Jackie and the rest of the Mentors reassure him and Jackie offers to call in on the family while the volunteer is away so the volunteer can have a well-earned break.
Following the group, Jackie has a 1-2-1 with a volunteer who has an issue they want to talk through in more detail. This is always available and every volunteer will need regular 1-2-1s, as well as group and telephone support. It’s a great way for Jackie to get to know the volunteers better.
After throwing a sandwich into her face while running back to her car, Jackie, who looked like a swan on the surface to the volunteers now rushes to a Children’s Centre meeting. It is only midday!
At 1pm, it’s time to go to the head office to help run a session on the prep course for new volunteers. Each volunteer who wants to work as a Mentor has to complete a 40-hour preparation course.
The final visit for the day is to a family are ending their visits with their Mentor. Together Jackie, the Mentor and the family look at the journey they have been on together over the last few months. Jackie can see that the confident parent sitting before them, so different from that first visit months ago is ready to fly solo.
Outside in the car the Jackie quickly updates the paperwork and sits for a moment to reflect on the amazing work done by that amazing Mentor and fantastic family.
Then Jackie sits up abruptly, looks at the clock and starts the engine. She has just 20 minutes to pick up her children from school and start the hardest part of her day, being a parent herself!
To all the staff, volunteers and families at Home-Start – I salute you.