Julie is Light’s most longstanding volunteer, supporting mums at one of our peer support groups for over two years. We asked her about her volunteering experience with Light…
When did you start volunteering with Light and what do you do in your volunteer role?
About 2 years ago. I’m a group facilitator, which involves being at one of the groups with a member of the Light team to welcome the mums and their babies, listen to and offer support to the mums and encourage peer support, as well as telling them about other services which might possibly be helpful to them too – over a cuppa (of course!)
Why did you want to volunteer for Light?
I was looking for a new volunteering opportunity after my previous one came to a natural end, and I found myself at the Voluntary Action Sheffield recruitment fair. I wanted to support a small, local and relatively new charity, and felt very much drawn to Light and its aims. I wanted to do something involving face to face communication, preferably related to mental health.
How do you think your own experiences help to support others?
My own daughter is grown up now, but I clearly remember the sleep deprivation, lots of conflicting advice spinning around in my head and feeling overwhelmed at times at this abrupt change in role, from independent working girl to new mum, with this tiny person seemingly dependent on me 24/7. Some of my nearest and dearest have suffered with mental health issues recently and I would like to think that some of the ways I supported and helped them through their dark and difficult times are now being channelled into helping some of the mums at Light. Mental health issues can strike anyone at any time, but the pressure on new mums can feel phenomenal, and it is great that Light runs the groups to encourage mums to work through the issues they are facing in a non-judgemental, relaxed and caring space.
What is the best thing about volunteering for Light?
Seeing our lovely mums helping each other and forming friendships, as each one realises that she is not the only one affected by PND and in need of some extra support. Seeing them (sometimes tentatively) let down their guard and be totally honest about their own feelings and struggles, only to learn that others in the group are experiencing similar emotions and difficulties. There are sometimes tears, which we are all used to and of course that’s one aspect of PND, but we usually manage a few smiles and laughs! Just hearing a mum say that she is pleased that she could get to group is great – as a volunteer, I know I have contributed a little to that. Getting to a group is a huge step when PND looms large and I am so proud of the mums that come along.
Can you describe what volunteering means to you in three words?
Uplifting, positive, worthwhile
Anything else that you would like to add?
If you haven’t volunteered for a while and find that you have some time to spare, then there are so many opportunities out there and so many worthy causes. Don’t worry if you don’t feel you have it all together – training will be given and help is on hand. People often volunteer for noble reasons, to give something back in some way. In my experience, I seem to receive far more than I give, often in intangible ways. Just knowing that something you have said might have been a lightbulb moment to someone, or contributed to a new way of thinking about a problem they are wrestling with, is very satisfying.
Thank you Julie for your support and commitment, hopefully for many more years to come!