This Valentine’s Day marks five years since Safe Families for Children recruited and approved their first volunteers in Middlesbrough.
Gloria and Harry were among the first of the now 3500 volunteers nationwide to step forward to support vulnerable families in the charity’s mission to improve the outcomes for children and families going through a crisis.
Struggling families are referred to Safe Families by the local authority when facing challenges such as: isolation, mental or physical health difficulties, difficulty coping, or other issues. Families are then matched with volunteers from the local community who support them in one of three ways: befriending and/or mentoring, overnight hosting of children, and needed resources or DIY help.
Middlesbrough residents, Gloria and Harry, were approved as Family Friend volunteers on Valentine’s Day 2013 and have since supported eleven families in the North East.
Gloria is still friends with one of the first mums she supported, Shabina.
Referred by the local authority to Safe Families for Children in January 2014, the mum of three was struggling after giving birth to twins.
“I just didn’t feel like I was going to get anywhere, to be honest,” said Shabina. “I just couldn’t accept the fact that I had twins to look after. I found it really, really hard with all the caring that I would be doing. I didn’t get any support from friends or extended family.”
“When I first met Shabina she was at a low point in her life,” said Gloria. “She couldn’t see a way through at all, looking after the twins. And I just kept saying to her, ‘We’ll get through it together.’”
Safe Families sourced a wardrobe for the family and Harry assembled it for them while Gloria provided moral support for Shabina and passed down parental knowledge and tips for managing the children.
“I was just overwhelmed and she helped me out,” said Shabina. “She’s been great. It was like I’d knew Gloria from ages. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
Four years later, Gloria and Shabina still meet up for coffee and a chat every week.
“Back at the beginning she was telling us how she couldn’t manage and I kept saying you can, you know. And together we’ve done it. I’ve been there to support her through it. Now we keep that relationship open because there was that bond there that couldn’t be broken,” said Gloria.
To date Safe Families for Children has worked with the local authority to provide support to 137 families in Middlesbrough, benefitting 369 children.
If you would like to find out more about supporting struggling families in your area please fill in the form below.