Following a career in nursing, Sarah’s huge experience and wide variety of interests led her to volunteering through Faithworks, where she is putting a lifetime of skills to use supporting SMILE Lone Parent Families.
“Having a career in Nursing, you evolve over the years and find it becomes a way of life. Working with people, building relationships and helping those who are in difficult situations becomes second nature. Part of it is knowing you are doing something worthwhile, so when you leave the role, it can feel like you are losing your identity.
Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose, but everyone gets something different and personal from it. My faith has always been a big motivator and I wanted to get involved in something that was sociable. I worked at The Greenhouse Christian Centre in Bournemouth, which offers spiritual retreats for groups and this led me to Faithworks and the SMILE Families who had been staying there.
Faithworks is a local Christian charity that run practical projects around food, finance, recovery, homelessness and lone parenting across Dorset. I’ve been involved in a number of areas, but the main one I help with is SMILE Families, a lovely group supporting lone parents and carers of children. Having raised a family on my own, I know how isolating it can be. To have someone to listen to my worries at such a difficult time, would have meant the world to me.
People in the group come from all of sorts of backgrounds but there are very common struggles, especially for those who are the sole carer. Volunteers also come from a wide background, but many have lived experience like myself. Over time you build relationships with people who have been let down by others. When they feel able to put their trust and faith in you, it helps to break that cycle particularly for those who may be in difficult situations with ex-partners. We don’t always have the answers, but because of the shared experience, it resonates more and you can help people to see there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We try and support through various stages as what families need, constantly evolves.
Activities include a Wednesday weekly walking group in Poole. Walking helps to create natural conversations. Some parents come with younger children, so walks are suitable for buggies. We even have a dog that comes along. There’s also a coffee morning on Fridays at Longfleet Baptist Church which is well attended.
We try to arrange a variety of events and activities, everything from Pilates to a watersports day which we run in September, specifically for SMILE parents. The team from the Watersports Library bring their equipment for us to use. It is wonderful to spend a fun day with parents sharing new experiences away from their responsibilities. It’s really powerful giving people the chance to do things outside of their comfort zone. It opens you up and helps to take you out of yourself. I know first-hand hand how great it is to be on the water.
For an anyone thinking of volunteering, please give it a go. What are you passionate about? You might have skills you want to keep using, but it’s also a great way to gain new experiences without feeling pressured. What I have been involved in has evolved over time. Finding out what you don’t want to do is just as important – but don’t give up after the first go – there will be something else where you make a connection, find a role you enjoy and get to give something back to people who really value your help and support.”
Anyone interested in volunteering with SMILE Lone Parent Families, or in other roles with Faithworks, contact Claire by calling Faithworks’ office on: 01202 429037 or for more information see our website https://faith-works.org.uk/