volunteersweek Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK

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Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: CAROLINE

“One day I hope to be a kind, competent midwife somewhere in the East Midlands, and I think the work I’ve done with PANDAS and what I’ve learnt will definitely help me to be empathetic and more aware of perinatal mental health.”

Caroline from the East Midlands is our kind and passionate social media volunteer. We are proud to have Caroline as part of our team.

  1. Please tell us about yourself? 

I’m Caroline, from the East Midlands. Mum of two and married to a teacher. I’m currently a social media and PR professional but also attend college as I am retraining as a midwife and start university in September.

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

I decided to volunteer for PANDAS because I have supported friends through postnatal mental health issues and had seen that getting the right support makes a lot of difference. It was also helpful for me to get relevant work experience for my application for university and mental-health in pregnancy / postnatally isn’t always covered in much depth at university so it was a double-whammy, in terms of me wanting to volunteer. When I saw the role of social media volunteer advertised, it was perfect for the skills I use in my day job too so I applied straight away.

3) What is your role and what do you do? How does it work around your family and home life/other jobs/commitments?

I am a social media volunteer for Pandas, and that means that one day a week I look after our social media accounts, posting motivational and informative content to our audience. I also provide support to service users who get in touch over social media, and signpost them to our other services if they are looking for 1-2-1 support. I work 2 days a week, go to college 3 days a week and have my children at weekends and school holidays, but because of the fact you can access social media anywhere, I manage to volunteer around these commitments. I will schedule posts to go out, so I don’t have to remember to do it during a busy work day, and I will make time throughout the day to check messages and post comments and responds to questions and requests for support.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

Although the main role of a social media volunteer is to signpost service users to our helpline, email support, support groups or FB closed group, on numerous occasions I have had lengthy chats with service users over Facebook messages, building rapport and supporting them when they’re feeling that they are struggling. Often, I can see that it’s helpful to them to know that someone is listening, is there and cares. I know that I can’t make someone feel better on my own, but if I help them know that they aren’t alone, that support is out there and that things will improve, that makes it all worthwhile.

Also, increasing our social media following and engagement levels is really rewarding, knowing that people like what we do, feel boosted by our posts is lovely.

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

Everything we do is run by volunteers, but we still need funds to be able to offer our services. I know that the volunteers on the helpline and email support do a fantastic job and it would be great if the face-to-face support group team had more resources to set up groups in locations where we aren’t currently, to make those services more accessible to more parents.

Also, I think that we could expand our range of digital services to suit how some people like to access support – kind of like an online chat function that’s private, as some people feel nervous about calling in.

I’d also like us to be able to support the people who raise funds for us more – with branded tshirts etc to show to the world that they’re supporting us 

And finally…

One day I hope to be a kind, competent midwife somewhere in the East Midlands, and I think the work I’ve done with PANDAS and what I’ve learnt will definitely help me to be empathetic and more aware of perinatal mental health.

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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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