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Case Studies

Breastfeeding Peer Support

Do you want to become a Peer Support Volunteer? Find out more in Angie's story

My name is Angie Lee. I am mum to 22 month old Angus James and I work part-time at Sheffield City Council. This is my first volunteer role.

What is your volunteering role?

I am a breastfeeding peer supporter and Chair of MOMS @ Kings Oak. My role involves giving information and support to breastfeeding mums and mums to be, by providing encouragement through the tough times sometimes experienced during breastfeeding.

Most of the support I give is to mums who drop into the group's weekly coffee morning. I have however also given information and support to family members, friends and even strangers over a latte when I've been in town and at Meadowhall!

How did you get involved?

I had decided before my baby was born that I would try to breastfeed. We had a few set backs in the hospital though as Angus had a few minor health problems when he was born. Because he did not feed properly his health was suffering so the hospital staff suggested that I should give him a formula feed 'top up'. I did not particularly enjoy my early breastfeeding experience.

When Angus was about 10 weeks old I found myself in need of support. Because of my experience in the hospital I was reluctant to seek their help, however, my Health Visitor put me in touch with the breastfeeding link team at VAB. I spoke to Ange Beaumont who helped put my mind at ease and assured me that I wasn't being neurotic. It turned out I had the worries I had were those that most breastfeeding mums experienced at some stage - my baby is feeding all the time, what should I do? I can't measure how much milk he's getting, how do I know he is getting enough? What time of day should I try and express? and so on.

When I phoned Ange I was at my wits' end and I was about to turn to the bottle - of formula that is! - thinking that I had 'failed' Angus. But her support gave me the boost I needed to continue breastfeeding and I happily and successfully nursed my baby until he was ten months old.

A few months later, the Link Workers were running the first La Leche League training course in Wombwell. I was really interested in the subject but I also realised that the training would enable me to give other mums the kind of support I had received from Ange. If I could help just one mum in the same way Ange had helped me that would make me so happy.

Once we finished the training course the group had to decide how they would like to use their newly acquired skills. This is when we set up our weekly coffee morning at the local Children's Centre.

How has this benefited you?

I have benefited immensely from doing the training. Initially it gave me the information I needed when I was breastfeeding Angus and when he was being weaned. It has also given me the information that I think I should have had before Angus was born so I will have the confidence to make the right decisions from the outset for our next baby.

I have represented the group at Barnsley Town Hall and also at the Wombwell and Darfield Area Forum. As a result the group received a set up grant from the Wombwell and Darfield Area Forum! This also re-introduced me to formal meetings with people in a more professional environment and helped prepare me for my return to work.

The coffee morning is a very sociable and it gives me and Angus chance to meet new people and support them through tough times. I know it sounds like a cliche but being able to help people is really rewarding and gives me a real boost. I made some great friends from the experience. I think breastfeeding peer support is great. It helps the mums who seek our support because they know that we have been through what they are experiencing, and survived!

MOMS (Mum's Own Milk Support) is Wombwell's breastfeeding support group.

The coffee morning takes place every Wednesday from 9.30 to 10.30 am at Kings Oak Children's Centre, Bondfield Close, Wombwell. The group is free however the Children's Centre asks for donations of 10p for a cuppa.

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Support Assistant Case study: Amanda's story

Amanda came to see Janet at the Volunteer Centre in March 2008 and is now in employment.

"I'm a single mother of four grown up boys, one of whom (Sam) is profoundly deaf and has a multitude of problems such as mental health issues and learning disabilities. I was working in a sandwich shop and I really wasn't happy - I wanted more from life. I wanted to change career and because of my experiences with Sam, I really wanted to work with people with mental health issues. However, all the life experience in the world didn't mean anything without qualifications so I could never even get an interview.

A friend of mine suggested contacting VAB and getting a foot in the door through volunteering. I was really nervous about calling them because I thought without any qualifications I wouldn't get in - how wrong could I be!

Janet enrolled me on the supported volunteering project and I started on the course and met the rest of the group. They were a mixed bunch but a really friendly and lovely lot. The things I have learnt! It's been fantastic! I have also been able to share my first hand experiences with the others too so I felt that I was contributing too. I was worried at first because I thought I would open my mouth and they would run a mile!

I feel that its have helped me be a better parent and an even better carer. I learnt to look at the bigger picture instead of just my side. I've listened and learned from talks we have had and to be honest it's opened up a whole new way of life for me. It's given me a huge confidence boost and I'm now the proud owner of certificates including my Mental Capacity Act Training Certificate. I also have more knowledge and I even have a new job too!

I took a step I was too frightened to take in the past and applied for this job and I now work as a support assistant in a care unit with people who have learning and physical disabilities and mental health problems. I went to the interview determined that I would get the job. The volunteering and certificates helped give me that confidence. Eight people were interviewed for it and I got it! One day I hope to be working in mental health on the wards - I can do it!

Volunteering gave me that. All it took was one phone call and im so glad I did and my boys are all so proud of me and I am of myself too! It's a great place to start no matter what you think are or what you think your not. Sam was 16 when he was diagnosed with his problems and I can now work with other parents who aren't as vocal as me and help them get the support they need. I know how lonely mental health can be to live with - not just for the sufferer but for the family too.

Its opened doors I never thought would open - not for me anyway, a single parent of four! You don't need a folder full of qualifications just time, patience and a sense of humour. What's your reward? A smile ad sense of pride!

I thought I would be making sandwiches forever - but now I'm unstoppable!"

Janet Thomas, Supported Volunteer Co-ordinator, said "Amanda has been a dedicated volunteer who has contributed to the group with enthusiasm. She is great support assistant and I'm so pleased that we have played a part in her achieving the job she wanted".

Due to the success of the project so far, we are now recruiting our second group of support assistants. If you are interested in being part of this new exciting project call Janet Thomas at Volunteer Centre Barnsley on 01226 295905.

Volunteer Centre Case Study

Shaun's story:

I came to the Volunteer Centre originally in 1998. At the time I was working as a painter and decorator however, I felt I wanted to put something back into the community.

A friend of mine suggested going to the Volunteer Centre at VAB. I saw a lady called Betty who was actually a volunteer herself at the Volunteer Centre. In fact Betty is still volunteering at VAB today! I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but we explored all the different options. I did say I was interested in working with young people. That's when Betty suggested Barnsley Alcohol & Drug Advisory Service BADAS) which is a free and confidential service for anyone concerned about their own or someone else's drug or alcohol use. The team includes counselors, generic drug and alcohol workers, social workers and nurses. BADAS is based in Barnsley town centre and provides a variety of services, including counseling and needle exchange.

I started from this that I did my Cognitive Behaviour training with BADAS which you had to have in order to work or volunteer with vulnerable young people. To be honest I didn't know much about drug's - only what you read in the paper! When I started the training I had no idea what to expect and I wondered what am I doing here! However the course was great and I did really well on it. After twelve months I started to volunteer with BADAS.

Payment wise I have never been so well paid but it didn't involve a penny! I met new people both professionals and users. I developed personally and learnt new skills. It really gave me confidence, I always used to think I wasn't good enough to do it. I learnt to see things from other people's perspective. I continued to volunteer for two years and realised that this what I wanted to do as a job. I applied for a job working with Barnsley Substance Misuse team working with people who had drug treatment testing orders in detox units and clinics. It gave me great range of experience working in partnership with health professionals.

I then applied for a job back at BADAS as an Open Access Worker and I have been with them now since 2001. I am the clients first point of contact when they come to us. I work with people who are suicidal, have mental health issues and physical health problems. You have to think your feet I tell you! I am so proud to be part of BADAS and they have helped me develop both professionally and personally. I'm still enjoying it and I'm really thankful to VAB for opening that door.

I now signpost the people I work with to VAB and tell them my story!

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Rachel Jones (VAB Participation Team Mental Health Board Representative and Manager of MIND in Barnsley) kindly agreed to answer a few questions...

Tell us a little about MIND in Barnsley and your role within it.

MIND in Barnsley is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. Although we are affiliated to the national arm of MIND, we work independently and are therefore self funding. We provide a range of services for people with mental health problems, including their carers and relatives. These services include counselling, one to one support, therapeutic groups and social sessions.

I've been the Manager at MIND in Barnsley for the past 6 years and my role involves managing both the services that we provide as well as the building that we occupy (Arcadia House). We obtained Arcadia House 8 years ago and we have been refurbishing it in stages. We rent out office space on a not for profit basis to other Third Sector organisations. MIND has a commitment to working with Statutory and not for profit organisations, in order to develop services within Barnsley for people experiencing mental health problems.

Tell us why you accepted the role as a volunteer Mental Health Board Representative.

I took on the role because I have a commitment to partnership working and I feel that it's very important to ensure that the Third Sector has a voice and that we are represented at Board level. The Third Sector is under funded and under resourced and we all need to put some time in for the benefit of all the services that we provide collectively and to ensure the continuation of the valuable work that we provide to the people of Barnsley.

How do you feel volunteering as a representative benefits you, as well as the Third Sector?

For the Third Sector, the Board process provides a forum for information sharing; it allows me to take issues forward to the Board and bring information back to the VAB Participation Team's Adult Services Provider Forum. As I said previously, it is important that we have this voice and that we ensure, in these times of change, that our voice is represented.

Personally, I find volunteering rewarding as it allows me to do something for the benefit of our community.

Why do you feel it's important for people to volunteer?

It can be so beneficial for people and it can really assist in their development, both personally and professionally. The volunteers that we have worked with at MIND in Barnsley have found that their efforts have given them a step back into employment or education, helping to build their confidence, skills and self esteem. Many organisations could not manage without the support provided by their volunteers; they are an integral part of organisations and should receive recognition for their contribution to the Third Sector.

Apart from my work at MIND in Barnsley and my role as VAB Participation Team Mental Health Board Representative, I do volunteering work in the area in which I live. For me, volunteering is about being part of the community and contributing to it; offering your time has great value, but it costs nothing.

If you are interested in finding out more about the work of the VAB Participation Team, or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer Board Representative, then please give us a call on 01226 299590 or email

For more information about the services that MIND in Barnsley can provide, please call 01226 211188 or email

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Case study: Volunteer Centre

In Spring 2006 Kathryn came to see Beryl at our Volunteer Centre. By September she was volunteering for the Central Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) at South Yorkshire Police. Within 6 months she had been recruited by them.

We ask Inspector Mark Spooner why he chose to use volunteers...

Why did you decide to use Volunteers?

At the time we had no admin support and there was no likelihood of it due to lack of funds. We desperately required support because at least 30% of our Officer time was being spent on admin. We needed someone who could input data and record incidents so that we can produce performance reports to provide an audit trail of our actions and measure the impact of the SNT. I will be honest I went into this thinking I was going to get something for nothing, however this has changed my perception of volunteering and it has definitely been beneficial both ways and I would recommend other organisations consider this.

How did the Volunteer Centre help you?

We had tried putting adverts in the paper and touting local residents groups for support but with no luck. We didn't really understand how it worked to be honest! However, the Volunteer Centre provided a one stop shop. We found them very helpful as we would have needed admin support to recruit the volunteers!

What benefit did the volunteers bring to the SNT?

Kathryn is educated to degree level with good organisational skills. She volunteered for 6 months and was here Monday to Friday from 9-12 which meant we could plan admin tasks around her. I think it gave her the confidence to get back into employment however it was definitely a two way process and Kathryn is very well respected on the team.

Why should other organisations use volunteers?

We would definitely recommend that other organisations use volunteers. We have since recruited two new volunteers via the Volunteer Centre. It's a good way to access valuable part time support. There are skills out there and it's a good way to tap into this and bring new skills into teams. Another point is that Volunteering isn't ageist! One of our volunteers is a retired lady and she brings all her experience with her.

Kathryn - Volunteer

Why did you want to volunteer?

I always had good jobs however in 2004 I was diagnosed with cancer, I was off work for two years and I had to leave my job. However as I was recuperating I felt isolated and lacked any routine in my life. I had little contact with people other than my carers and I started to wonder "what am I going to do with my life?" I struggled to get to interview stage when applying for jobs and felt really low. That was when one of my health care workers suggested volunteering. At first I was reluctant - my initial thought was that there was no way I wanted to work in a charity shop!

How did the Volunteer Centre help?

I contacted the Volunteer Centre and came in for an interview and a chat. I didn't know what I wanted to do but because I filled in my form so quickly Beryl suggested I may be good at admin!

I found the service very quick and efficient and it wasn't intimidating at all. I was surprised by how much stuff there was to do in their books. My first post wasn't right for me so I a few months later I contacted Volunteer Centre again and this opportunity with the Police had arisen. I was attracted to it as because they had never used volunteers before so I felt we could learn together!

What benefits has it given you?

I started in September 2006 and did 5 mornings a week. This gave me a routine and made it reliable for them. It started to give me back my confidence to interact with people. I feel accepted as part of the team and I am made to feel that my contributions are valued. I feel that this work is worthwhile and meaningful, although sometimes the work can be monotonous, but I go home knowing that it's part of a bigger picture and that I have helped.

If the funding does not continue, I would now feel confident in applying for other jobs. I would definitely recommend this to other people. What you get out of it is so beneficial and worthwhile.

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Darren Hallam volunteers for the Exodus Project

Darren is a resident at Holden House hostel and in the past has done quite a lot of volunteering in charity shops. However, he always wanted to work with young people so he felt a bit frustrated with what he was doing. That was when his key worker at the hostel suggested he come to see Beryl at the Volunteer Centre at Voluntary Action Barnsley.

What is your volunteering role?

I have been a volunteer Youth Worker for the Exodus Project since October 2007. I work with young people 11-15 on a Thursday night helping out with sports activities such as bowling and playing football.

How did you find the Volunteer Centre?

I was a little bit nervous before coming in but I was made to feel really welcome and it wasn't intimidating like an interview! I tried a couple of volunteering posts first that weren't right for me so I came back to see Beryl and that's when the opportunity to volunteer with the Exodus project had come up.

Beryl invited me along to a couple of Volunteer workshops too as an example of someone who volunteered and to talk about my experiences. This helped Beryl because she had me there to talk about my experiences and it also gave me experience of speaking in public.

How have you benefited from volunteering?

It's given me some experience of working with children which is what I wanted and I know now that I would like to do more of this work. It's definitely built up my confidence and I don't feel as shy as I used to anymore. It's now helped me build up my CV.

I would now like to look for more opportunities like this to help build up my CV.

Beryl Cooper, Volunteer Manager at VAB, said "the difficulty for people like Darren who are unemployed, on benefits or living in hostels is that a lot of organisations don't pay travel expense which makes it very difficult for the potential volunteer. It is best practice that expenses are paid." If you would like to find out more about volunteering codes of best practice then please contact Beryl.

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Pauline Sharpe volunteered for Voluntary Action Barnsley's CATS team for over a year

My name is Pauline; I have been on the sick for a long time. I started with my illness at work, I didn't know what was wrong with me, and it turned out to be depression. My life changed completely. I stayed at home for the next seven years afraid to go out. I had no motivation or self esteem. Luckily for me my sister talked me into going for a 6-week course "Community Health and Development". I made new friends and came out of my shell. Through the help of the instructor, I applied to be a volunteer at the Voluntary Action Barnsley Cats team. In just one year, I started another course which lasted for a year in computing, the Cats team got me doing my NVQ level 2 course which I passed, and am now doing my ECDL level 2 course which I have almost completed. I have enrolled for Advanced Spreadsheets and am going to enrol for my ECDL advanced course, which lasts 2 years.

None of this would have been possible but for the help of VAB, who I volunteered with for over a year. Their help was invaluable and the people I worked with couldn't have been nicer or friendlier. They helped in ways I could not have got at home. I feel better prepared for my future. Also, it was a pleasure to get to work and retain my skills and improve on them through their help. I would recommend volunteer work to anyone, and have done. You don't just help others, they help you.

If you want to find out what you have to offer, take that small step to find out. You might be surprised in more ways than one.

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