Lend a hand with Firsthand Lothian

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For Volunteers Week 2016, iMultiply will be promoting a different charity each day to spread awareness of the great work and the positive impact the charity has made on lives and the wider community they work within.  Our tenth charity in the series is Firsthand Lothian.

Delivered in the family home and the local community, Firsthand Lothian work with children from birth up to 16 years of age. Volunteer roles include working with children and families in the home, mentoring and befriending children and young people with disabilities and their siblings - enabling them to participate in activity in their local community – meet new people and make new friends. They take time to match volunteers with families and children taking into account the needs of the children and the knowledge and experience of the volunteer.

How did it all start?

Established in 1992, Firsthand Lothian evolved from One Parent Families Scotland who had identified a need for support for isolated lone parents across Edinburgh. Over the past 20+ years the organisation has developed and now focusses on meeting the needs of  families who have one or more children with disabilities and who are in desperate need of some regular respite and support.  In addition, they offer support and guidance to vulnerable and disadvantaged families, including first time parents who need some input to develop their skills, knowledge and confidence.

What do you look for in a volunteer?

Firsthand Lothian seek volunteers from all walks of life and who have the energy to be able to keep up with children and young people.  Volunteers need to enjoy spending time with children and young people and want to make a difference.  The service is time limited (over 6 – 9 months) and it is important that the volunteer can commit to the family and children for the duration of the service.  Induction and on-going training is provided where there are a number of children there will always be 2 volunteers matched with the family and all volunteers have the option to spend time alongside a more experienced worker or volunteer initially until they are confident in their role.

Volunteers, once trained and inducted are matched with a family / child and meet up with them on a regular (usually weekly) basis for 3 or 4 hours which enables the parents to have some regular respite from their caring responsibilities -  to recharge, attend a course, spend time with siblings of the child with disability. Some sessions involve taking the child out of the home e.g. to the park, soft play, museum etc and other sessions may involve engaging in play and fun activities in the home. 

Why should someone volunteer for you?

People who volunteer with Firsthand Lothian do so for a number of reasons. From the feedback they get they know that many volunteers enjoy the opportunity to do something fun and completely different from the day job, volunteer because they want to support isolated parents who have no family who live locally to help them out, are keen to make a difference in the lives of children and young people, or have grown up families of their own want to share their knowledge and experience. Other Volunteers find it a good way of gaining experience which will help them with a career in Social Work, Child Care, Nursing etc. – and some volunteers have found it useful if they are thinking about adopting, fostering or having a child of their own!

"Volunteering with Firsthand has been a really positive experience for me. I was placed with a great family and hope I made some kind of positive impact, at the very least we certainly had a lot of fun along the way. The training put in place before the placement was very useful and well organised and will, I'm sure, benefit me in my own personal life.   Above all though I would particularly like to acknowledge the great team at Firsthand - they provide great support in a clearly challenging environment and are always approachable and helpful. If anyone is thinking of volunteering I would strongly urge them to stop thinking about it and go and do it!"  Mark Whitehead, Volunteer 

Volunteering with First hand Lothian will give you a chance to have fun, create positive memories for children, support and encourage parents in their role and help children and parents become more confident, sociable and better able to cope day to day. 

Check out their website for further info