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A UK mother’s story
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A Canadian story
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A Canadian story

When Dee asked me to write an article about being a Homestart Volunteer I did not hesitate to say yes.

Why did I become a Homestart Volunteer?

I became a Homestart Volunteer because my daughter, who was working at the Boys and Girls Club at the time, brought home a pamphlet from work outlining the types of Volunteer Programs that were available through the Boys and Girls Club.

I was at a stage in my life where my children were grown up and I had plenty of time on my hands.  I just wanted something different from the typical fund-raising type volunteering that I had done in the past.  My sister had volunteered with a refugee family from Kosovo and it was life-altering for her and I thought Homestart might be the perfect fit for me.

I went through the pre-training course and it was very informative and thought provoking.  I was then assigned to my family in September of last year.

My family is an Arab single mother with four children, two boys and two girls.  The family is Muslim.  The mother spoke very little English, and the children, who ranged from six months to four years, spoke a little English, but mostly Arabic. 

The family not speaking English did not phase me as I have lived overseas in a Spanish speaking environment and knew that there are many ways to communicate without the spoken word.

When I first met my family both they and I were very unsure of each other.  The children were curious about me, but did not know what to make of me.  The mother - while not able to communicate much in English - did understand English.  The brother-in-law, who speaks English very well has been very supportive to the family in the absence of his brother.  This apparently is customary in Muslim families.  If I couldn’t communicate effectively with my family we would use either the neighbor’s child next door who was 13, and spoke Arabic, or I would phone the brother-in-law, and he would translate.  It was very comical at times.

I first volunteered on a Wednesday evening for three hours, once a week.  I would play outside with the children when the weather permitted, and take them to the library to play on the computer and take out some books in English.  Later, as the weather turned cold, we decided that it would be better for me to come to the house on a Saturday.

How does one describe what has transpired over as little time as seven months?  As time has gone on, both the family and I have developed more of a bond, as in any friendship.  The children who once eyed me up suspiciously, would start to sit on my lap, then hold my hand, then hug me and outwardly look for affection.  They jump into my arms now when I arrive and look forward to where we might go or what we might do.  I have tried to show them a bit of my world while at the time respecting theirs.

We dressed the children up for Hallowe’en and, along with the neighbour's children, went trick or treating.  The mother was enjoying herself so much that she went to the doors with the baby and started to trick or treat.

Our family brought the children to the movies for the first time and, while it was a little loud and frightening for them, they were happy to say to their friends at pre-school that they had seen The Incredibles.

We brought the family to our house for Christmas and the children trimmed the tree, we had a meal, and exchanged gifts.    

Now when we go to the Library the children are excited to go.  They once looked at the books for a few moments and then tossed them aside.  Now they all sit together and I have to read all the books before I go home.

We have done simple things like go to the park, go swimming, and tobogganing.  The children are having fun learning new things but also just getting out of the house.  As we all know it is very difficult to bring four children anywhere let alone by yourself.

There have been many special moments ov

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