This time last year, Home-Start Family Services added six new volunteers to our home visiting program, a team that connects with young families under stress across our region, adding significant value to the professional family work.
Home-Start volunteers are experienced mothers and grandmothers who understand how easily the wheels can fall off when parents are expected to do the job alone.
Through weekly visits, volunteers stand alongside families as a companion, an extra pair of hands on a walk or at the shopping centre, or by helping a child with homework; a wise presence when things get too much.
Many become long term friends with the families they support. Others are the drop of kindness, the angel that arrives at just the right moment.
"It's been incredible to see the care and creativity of families and volunteers during the COVID -19 crisis," said Family Worker and Coordinator of Home-Start Southern Tablelands, Mhairi Fraser.
"Lovely examples include dropping homegrown roses on the doorstep for a mum's birthday, having a driveway visit with Easter eggs, sending cards to children who've never received one in the letter box before, dropping off groceries at the peak of the virus, drawing hopscotch in the driveway for families to wake up to, or just being at the other end of the phone."
Families and volunteers are keeping their relationships alive by learning to face time, zoom and exchange videos and photos with each other.
"Thanks to the pandemic the rest of us now understand being isolated," Mhairi said.
"It's much easier now to relate to how tough life can be when you are cut off from family and friends and the four walls seem to close in.
"Add babies and young children who can't get out to play into the mix, along with financial uncertainty, and you get a taste of normal life for many young families in our region."
She said Home-Start volunteers know that it takes a village to raise a child.
"We now know how important the quality of the village is to all of us. In this National Volunteers Week, Home-Start staff and families salute our volunteer home visitors, the fun and love they share on the job and their adaptability throughout the crisis."