Midlothian charity Home Link Family Support said a fond farewell last month to a volunteer who has supported 22 children across the county.
More than 20 years ago Adele McGowan was a young mum in Mayfield struggling with a sick child, but help from a Home Link Family Support volunteer turned her life around.
Several years later she decided to volunteer too.
She meant to do it for a short while – just as a way to say thanks, but she found she really enjoyed it and now nine years on she has supported eight families and 22 children.
Adele’s said: “I had help from Home Link Family Support because my son had a tracheostomy and all I did was concentrate on his medical needs. I didn’t care about myself as long as he had clean clothes on, was fed and had what he needed.
“People used to stare at him in the street because of the tubes, and I was afraid of taking him out in case I had to give him treatment in public.
“Home Link provided a male family volunteer, at first I was not sure but actually it was great because my son had no other male role models apart from his grandad.
“I really looked forward to the volunteer’s visits because he was so easy to talk to. He interacted so well with my son, I got some space and gradually I started to feel better.”
Adele explained why she gave back by volunteering: “I joined as a volunteer to give back and because I had time to spare. I stayed volunteering with Home Link for nine years, because I really enjoyed it. Volunteering gave me confidence, knowledge, and life experience which has made a total difference.
“I learned to be non-judgemental and how important it is just to listen. It was good to be able to put the volunteering on my CV, it gave me much more to talk about in interviews. Employers were impressed that I had used my time to help others and learn lots of new skills.
“So it has enabled me to get a job as a support worker for people with additional support needs.”
Adele spoke about her experience of volunteering: “I was always careful to be realistic and honest with parents, and I could feel exactly what they were going through because I’d been there myself. If I could make the family smile for two hours I knew I was making a difference,
“At first some of them were quite low and isolated but by the end of the match they were often totally different in their confidence and self-esteem.
“The majority of families that I volunteered with moved on successfully and they don’t need help any more.
“It is very important to build the family’s trust and confidence. To let them know that there’s someone coming every week with a smile and that they can say whatever they want to me, really anything. Get stuff off their chest, so that they can see they are a person as well as a mum or a dad and then they can do things with the children or for themselves.
“And over a whole year you can see such a transformation in a parent.”
In 2018 Adele received the Midlothian Volunteer of the Year Award. She added: “My kids and my mum were so proud of me.”
Moving on to pastures new, Adele added: “I am leaving Home Link Family Support now because of my new job. But I’ll be a bit sad not to be volunteering any more.
“If any families in Midlothian feel they need a bit of help they shouldn’t be afraid to ask Home Link. And it’s a great place for volunteers.”
Home Link Family Support is currently recruiting for more volunteers like Adele to visit local families.
Find more information at www.homelinkfamilysupport.org or call 0131 661 0890.