Volunteers Week Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: VICTORIA

“I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time.”

Victoria is our brilliant and talented phone line support volunteer.

1) Please tell us about yourself?
I am Victoria from south Manchester with partner Rob and twin daughters Emily and Grace. I am Re-training as a person centred counsellor at the moment and due to qualify in September 2018. I love being with my family, friends, eating out, cinema, theatre, travelling abroad.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?
I am not quite sure now how I heard about PANDAS but as a I was re-training as a counsellor I wanted to gain some experience volunteering for a mental health charity and PANDAS seemed the perfect choice as I had struggled with PND myself after having my twin girls so it was an area that interested me massively and I wanted to support others going through similar experiences.

3) What is your role and what do you do?
I am a telephone support worker and take calls from all kinds of people mums, dads, grandparents, friends, work colleagues etc – all people needed either support or advice about Postnatal depression (PND.) I volunteer one day per week and have been doing so for the last three years. It fits in perfectly for me as I can work from home taking the calls and usually use the time to crack on with college work while waiting for calls to come through.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?
I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time. I often find when a caller first comes on they are usually quite upset and distressed. It is clear the person is having a difficult time and making the call has been a big step for them. It is not long into the call that it is evident that having someone to listen to them, talk to them and let them know they are not on their own going through PND that the caller tends to become much calmer, more in control and more able to cope with their situation going forward. I offer a listening ear but I also signpost people to relevant organisations such as Pandas support groups, their GP for counselling or other support. I often find that people who seem to be struggling the most have had traumatic births, have little support around them such as family and friends and have had issues with depression before. We talk about how small changes can be made to their lifestyle so they can cope better with having a baby or small children, such as exercise, joining baby groups, having time out from the baby, talking to others or calling the helpline for support. I also like to encourage callers by telling them they are doing a fab job as being a mum or dad is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it does get easier!

5) And finally…
I love being a volunteer. I feel valued and I find supporting others rewarding and fulfilling. To hear on the helpline that you helping people to feel listened to and resolve an issue is great. I feel volunteering for PANDAS has enhanced my counselling skills considerably and given me a greater understanding of PND and how vital it is that it is taken seriously and people are given the right support.

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: JESS

“There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together.”

Jess is our wonderful volunteer who tells us about her, the progression within PANDAS and the mums she has met.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

I am Jess from Bristol with personal experience of Post-Natal Depression (PND) and Anxiety. I have two young boys and live with my husband on a Dairy Farm. I am an Occupational Therapist by background and a keen crafter and cake maker.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

I initially wanted to volunteer with a PND support service in my local town, but found that although there were services in the city, there was nothing available for local families. I contacted a locally based organisation to offer to run a group for them and this offer was declined due to funding issues, so I then found PANDAS through online searches. PANDAS was great, because they supported me to set up my service with insurance, DBS check and training, but also colleagues within the network gave me ideas for free venues, group structure and promotion. The organisation has no head office so money raised is direct delivery to the service users and despite this I have felt part of a team from the start. I love the autonomy PANDAS gives to its Peer Support Group Leaders.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

I began as a Peer Support Group Leader which required around 4 hours per week of my time. This is because I run my group weekly, but other groups are fortnightly and monthly so plenty of flexibility. I have now progressed within the organisation to become South West Regional Coordinator which will require an additional 6 hours per week as the role develops. I am fortunate enough to work part time, allowing me to run my groups on a week day while my children are in school and pre school.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

The aim of our Peer Support Groups is to facilitate friendship so that families will go on to support each other within their communities and outside of group hours. This is to ensure that our families do not feel alone in their journey through Maternal Mental Health.

There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together. What I am most proud of is that they are reducing their isolation and supporting their recoveries through friendships with peers who truly understand. One mum told me that even on the weeks she can’t get out for anything else, she will always push herself to get to PANDAS as this is where she feels safe and relaxed with people who understand and do not judge.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

Local fundraising supports us to deliver more community activities within our groups to promote sustainable recoveries. We are also responsible locally for our own service promotion and the championing of the Charity so need funding for this. Nationally PANDAS insure and support our Peer Support Groups, through DBS, training and supervision.

They also offer online and telephone support for those who are unable to access groups.

Fundraising is imperative to ensure no families go through this alone and that we move forward to break the stigma, that we champion “it’s OK not to be OK”

And finally..

I run Yate PANDAS, near Bristol. We meet weekly throughout the year, including during the holidays as we believe continuity is essential. We offer Peer Support to families, a listening ear, craft activities to promote mindfulness and there is always homemade cake.

We are facilitating friendships as we believe peer support is key to a sustainable recovery.

We are looking for committee members to support our aims and objectives and to help with fundraising events and planning.

We are looking for speakers, crafters or activities to offer taster sessions to our groups.

We are looking for sponsorship to develop our wellness packs to be offered to all new group members.

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: ANNE MARIE

“That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same”

Anne Marie is our fabulous email support and social media volunteer from Edinburgh. Anne Marie tells us about her background and what she brings to PANDAS.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

My name is Anne Marie and live in South Queensferry in Edinburgh, right next to the Forth bridges. I have three children, all girls and grown up with three beautiful grandchildren, who keep me busy. I am happily married to Kevin.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

My daughter suffered with Postnatal Depression (PND ) and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) last year after a traumatic birth. She took a long time to recover and then suffered with anxiety. She was diagnosed with PND. As her mum, I supported both her and her partner through this. Having suffered with PND with my second child, no support had been available then. After my daughter recovered, it was something I felt I could do, and had a lot to offer. I had followed PANDAS on Facebook and my daughter did the same.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

Currently I am an email volunteer on a Saturday and sometimes a Tuesday to support the group. As I work Monday to Friday it fits in easily with my work. I then took more volunteer work on as a social media agent, totally different to email, but I love engaging with our service users, and it’s so good for them to get an instant reply. I have also hosted the Twitter chat #PANDAShr on a Sunday evening. Although apprehensive about this, I really enjoy the engagement.

The balance with my job/family/career is great, its something I enjoy and I love being able to help people.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

I have supported both my daughters through post natal depression, my eldest daughter suffered this 5 years ago, she didn’t realise she had it. She came up to visit me and I could see it. She went home and got support both through her GP and through PANDAS. Although she lives a long way away she knows I am always there for her, and when she had her second baby last year, I was mindful of this.

My youngest child suffered with this last year, it was hard being her mother and seeing her go through this. It was hard for me too, as my anxiety kicked in and to a point if I feel she is going through a difficult time it does now. It meant late night visits if she was anxious and her partner being young also didn’t understand what was going on.

I am so proud of her, she is thriving as a Mother and has started a new job.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

We can’t help families if we didn’t have donations, they basically help us to help and reach more families.

Fundraising on a local level helps the groups to run and reach more people.

The generosity of wonderful people that help us to support families suffering with perinatal illness.

I would love to see PANDAS reach even more people and see more groups in more areas over the UK. I very often have service users on email say how when they are feeling better they would love to volunteer. That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same.

 

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