Heather (not pictured above) has made a real impact on the lives of children and their families by volunteering at Koala North West, forming true friendships at the same time.
Koala provides children up to the age of 11 and their families with tailored practical and emotional support that improves wellbeing, reduces isolation and supports both children and care givers to thrive.
Heather, a retired GP, has volunteered at Koala since 2017 and is currently supporting her fifth family.
She said: “You’re a listening ear and it’s all about being there for people.
“I did a course to prepare for volunteering and started working with my first family in 2018. Koala works with single mums, people in poverty, those with mental health issues and parents looking after disabled children – anyone who is struggling to parent for any reason.
“Before COVID-19, I’d go to see people once or twice a week and support them in any way I could. It’s a chance for them to get to know you, have somebody else to talk to and offload on and receive practical support.
“We’re now providing support over the phone and, while that isn’t as effective as seeing people in person, it’s important Koala has adapted and the parents certainly still appreciate the support.
“Koala has had funding for food deliveries as well during the pandemic so my husband and I have been collecting food and making sure families needing support receive their parcels.
“You definitely get as much out of volunteering as you put in. With some of the families I once supported through Koala, I still visit and keep in touch with them now as a friend.”
According to Heather, people can have many skills that can easily be transferred to volunteering, whether that is with Koala or other organisations.
She added: “I’m a retired GP so I’m used to going into people’s homes, seeing problems and helping them, but going in on a weekly basis is different and scary at first. You can be dealing with something different with each family.
“All of us in family support at Koala have been parents and will know some of the issues families may be facing.
“Even if you don’t have any skills with a certificate to show for them, we all have those sorts of skills you can pass on to other people and it can make a real difference.”
Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) is running a volunteering campaign throughout 2021, looking at the range of opportunities and the many benefits volunteering can bring.