A Cadet Nurse and a Midwife

He was a cadet nurse, she was a midwife; now they use their skills to support vulnerable families in the North East. “We’ve been together since we were 16 and 17,” says Hazel of Tyne and Wear.

Rob and Hazel have been volunteering with Safe Families for Children since the charity was founded in the UK in 2013 and have provided support to a dozen different families over the past 3 years.

“When Safe Families Community Volunteer Manager came to our church it was Hazel that put her hand up. The day of the meeting she said to me ‘…when we go to this meeting tonight at church’. I said ‘we?’. ‘Yes, you have to come and give me support’ she said. The next thing I knew I was filling in the volunteer forms! I thought I was going to be a bystander, but I’ve enjoyed it,” Rob says with a chuckle.

parkerTheir role at Safe Families includes being Host Families, taking in children overnight from a night to a fortnight while parents resolve pressing issues, go into hospital for treatment, or have a respite break. The Parkers have also taken on the role of Family Friends, befriending and mentoring isolated parents, and the role of Family Coaches, overseeing and guiding other volunteers who are helping families.

“You do see what difference you make, even in a little way. The children we’ve had we enjoy having. It’s as much for us as it is for them sometimes,” says Rob.

The very first family they supported was a mum going through chemotherapy who needed someone to look after her two little girls while she went in for radiotherapy treatment every week day for a month.

“We thought if our first attempt at support doesn’t work out it might alter our view of volunteering, but it went so well that three years later we’re still there!” Rob

Rob and HazelThe couple have provided support to a dozen struggling families going through mental and physical health problems, isolation, disability, unemployment, pregnancy and bereavement, but a recent family situation in particular stands out.

The Rob and Hazel stepped forward to answer a request to support the brother of a little boy who was suffering from a rare and very serious condition that affects skin, muscle and bone. Because of the severity of Joe’s (name is fictitious to protect identity) brother’s condition and the many associated hospital visits, Joe needed some extra attention while mum was caring for the brother’s need. The family had nobody to turn to for help so they were referred to Safe Families for Children by the local authority. Mum was not only overwhelmed with her son’s condition and needs but was also concerned because the only time Joe got to go out and do something he enjoyed was when his brother was in nursery or over school holidays.

Hazel and Robb took the pressure off mum by taking Joe to and from school, taking him out to McDonalds for tea, giving him some 1-1 attention and introducing him to their own grandchildren, who loved him, played football with him and asked after him when he wasn’t there. Even after support officially ended, because of the strong relationship and bonding between Joe and Rob and Hazel’s grandson, the friendship has continued with the couple still taking Joe for a day regularly every month.

“When you’ve got on well with a family it gives you an encouragement to go forward. You think, ‘I’ve actually managed that and it was alright.’ So you feel you can do it again,” says Hazel.

Although not every story had a happy ending, Rob and Hazel say they were always very grateful they were able to help families going through a difficult time.

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