With Volunteers’ Week upon us (June 1st-7th), we thought it was the perfect time to have a chat with a Southend mum who is combining looking after her three children with volunteering at our partner organisation SAVS and playing a key role in our co-production work with parents too.

Donna Smart is a 32 year old from Kursaal with three children: Alyssa, 11, Max, 3 and one-year-old Georgia. She took time out to describe her experience of getting into the world of volunteering:

“In February this year I went to the college careers advisor and said I was looking to get into an administration work role. They mentioned an ICT college and also mentioned about SAVS. My main goal was to get into full-time work again long-term, and I thought SAVS sounded great as volunteering is a really useful step towards that. I thought it would be difficult to go into full-time work until Georgia is 3 and she gets her three year funding [Free Early Years Education for 3 and 4 Year Olds] but volunteering will definitely help with my career.

“In early March I started volunteer training with SAVS. After completing the training I was invited to volunteer on a beach cleaning session with them and I got chatting with Emily from SAVS. She mentioned about the volunteering opportunity with them. It was through this that I became involved in the Engagement Fund and I learnt about becoming a Parent Champion – I started training for that at the start of May.

“I volunteer once a week if I can, depending on whether I can get someone to babysit for me. I have some really good friends that help out with the babysitting which is a huge help. Max also gets three year funding for him to be in nursery, which means that I only need to find a babysitter for Georgia. It’s easier to find a babysitter for one than two!

“I fit in volunteering with SAVS with being a full-time mum by having great friends. The fact that they are able to help me out makes it much easier for me to volunteer. Also, Gemma, who is my volunteer manager, is really flexible with the shifts that I come and do. It makes me feel much better to know that if I have to rearrange a volunteering shift because of any problems with childcare, it isn’t an issue. This makes it really easy to fit it in with looking after my children.

“My eldest daughter Alyssa told me that she thinks it’s building my confidence up and that it’s really good for me. I think if they see me helping it can only be beneficial. It certainly can’t do any harm!

“If any other mothers are thinking about volunteering I would tell them to go for it. Definitely! I think it is a really good route to get back to work again and to build confidence. I pretty much hadn’t worked since my eldest daughter was five and it really gives you the confidence to be in a work environment. Volunteering gives you the confidence of other adults and it really helps to find yourself again. You are not just a mum, and you can find out who you really are.”

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