The Sure Start programme was based upon the assumption that if local parents – particularly local women – were able to influence the way in which services for very young children and their parents were delivered, then the experience of having children and enjoying children and children prospering would be so much better. Early intervention and early investment as we all know, repays itself many times over further down the line. As Sure Start starts to fade, what a joy it is to be able to celebrate the volunteers from Burngreave Children’s Centre – the heart if you like of the Burngreave Sure Start programme – Jenny Jones, Gemma Hopkins, Fouzia Ibrahim, Denise Palmer, Pauline Simmonds and Fyzah Saleh.
This group of women have all been volunteering at the centre, and out in the community – in people’s homes – to achieve two things. First to encourage more new mums to be able to successfully breast-feed their babies, and secondly, to encourage these and other parents to participate in the parent and toddler groups that the Children’s Centre supports. By working alongside the paid workers and health workers at the Centre, these women have brought a much greater range of women and parents into contact with staff and services that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. These women have provided the support for young mums to be confident with breast-feeding by their work as ‘peer support workers’. “It is amazing the degree of dedication and encouragement for each other and the parents that these women have shown” says their nominator. The Children’s Centre would not have been able to reach the number of parents and young children it has without them.
And of course, almost unseen and unaware, the women volunteers have begun to acquire a whole heap of experience and skills that they wouldn’t have had previously. At a recent regional event, one of the volunteers presented the work that’s done in Burngreave at the “baby café” to a full audience from all over Yorkshire. Mastering PowerPoint in the process! As the nomination again says:
“From volunteering they have all gained work experience. Volunteering is a stepping-stone to further education and job opportunities (when the time comes). The breastfeeding peer supporters have gained skills in health promotion and the parent and toddler group volunteers have gained skills in childcare.”
So when the one-stop health promotion shop opens up on Spital Hill later this year – courtesy of the PCT and New Deal – we will not be short of locally trained and developed women to step forward to get the paid employment that might be available – and that they so clearly deserve!