A CHARITY that supports families thanked staff, volunteers and supporters at a special event after enduring its “toughest year ever”.
Home-Start Wessex came together earlier this month to mark the achievements of volunteers, as well as thanking supporters.
Among them were Anne Luke and Rowena Wilkes, who received certificates of achievement for 10 years’ service as a volunteer with Home-Start.
Both trained on the same course in 2013 and have helped over 40 families in need since then.
Anne, from Corfe Mullen, said: “10 years ago, when I first started here, there was a handful of staff, maybe half a dozen or so.
“Since then, the charity has grown beyond belief, but that has made the service so much better, offering so many different things.
“I have seen first-hand what a difference it makes. To the mums, the main difference is that somebody actually cares about them. I love visiting families.
“I thought perhaps I was a bit too old, and here I am 10 years later, still enjoying it.”
Rowena, who is based in West Moors, added: “A family recently asked me why I volunteer, and I said I was a secondary school teacher, and when I retired, I didn’t want to lose contact with younger people.
“I had skills I didn’t want to lose in the way you talk to people and relate to people, and it’s fun.
“I think we get as much from it as the families do. It’s brilliant just how many families we are able to support now.
“Ten years ago, it was a much quieter, smaller organisation, but it hasn’t lost that family atmosphere by growing, that’s still there.”
Kathy Fryatt-Banks, CEO of Home-Start Wessex, said: “This has been our toughest year ever with even more funding challenges, but we are proud to have continued to grow, adapt and extend our services to meet even higher demand.
“We increased our support by a massive 63% this year, helping a record 402 families and transforming 1,330 lives.
“The ongoing effect of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis has really taken its toll on families. More and more local families are being referred to our services every day.
“Not only have we continued to see families going through considerable stress, hardship, and heartbreak, but we have seen a rise in families who have suffered domestic violence, mental breakdowns and been forced into homelessness.
“It is so rewarding to see the incredible impact our organisation makes to people’s lives and this could not be done without our wonderful team whom I thank from the bottom of my heart.”
The event welcomed patron and author, Sarah Lean, who first became involved with the charity in 2021.
“I am the one who is privileged here just to stand alongside and do what little tiny thing I can to say I love what you are doing,” she said.
“If I were a young mother, I know how much support I would get from you and how much that would mean to me going forward. I would like to thank you for inviting me in.
“It’s an absolute joy to meet and understand what you are doing here.”
Chris Thomas, chair of the Board of Trustees at Home-Start Wessex, added: “I have worked in two very high profile organisations in the Ambulance Service and the Coastguard, dealing with some big impact events, but this organisation takes me through the whole range of emotions.
“What a place to work and be a trustee. Everyone here has contributed and changed people’s lives, and I am really proud of what we deliver as a team. Thank you for your commitment, care, compassion, and outstanding professionalism. You give people hope – a four-letter word which means so much.”
Alongside staff and volunteers, guests at the afternoon tea event included funders Dorset Tea and PJ Aiken Limited.
Since 1995, Home-Start Wessex has helped more than 3,500 families and supported more than 10,000 children in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, the Purbecks, Blandford and Cranborne and into the Wiltshire and Hampshire borders.
For more information on the charity – and to find out more about volunteering opportunities – email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit homestartwessex.org.uk.