Elaine Hoffman was inspired to become a Rennie Grove volunteer after reading about our Family Support Services in a local newspaper
Elaine said, “The article in the paper explained that Rennie Grove was looking for volunteer listeners who were caring, empathic and willing to learn active and supportive listening skills. I was really interested in finding out more so I got in touch with the Volunteering Team at Rennie Grove who explained more about the role and, following an interview, I was accepted onto the training. In January 2017 I joined a part-time, three month course to learn the skills needed to become an adult listening support volunteer.
“I trained as a Norland Nanny and have also worked with pre-school children and as a teaching assistant in a school so when I discovered that Rennie Grove provided services for children as well for adults I asked whether I could join the children’s team as a listening volunteer. I was very pleased when the answer came back “yes”. I undertook some additional training that enabled me to join the children’s team and I finished my training in March and had my first client in June.
“The children I work with are aged between 7 and 19 and have either experienced the loss of a grandparent, parent or sibling or have a close family member who is very ill. My role is to encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and to move forward, adjusting to what has happened to them.
“I hold an initial meeting with the child – my client – and their parent or carer and we then meet at their home or school usually for six sessions each lasting an hour. Being a listener is such a rewarding role. Often my clients start off not knowing how to talk about how they are feeling so my role is to gain their trust and find ways to encourage them to talk.
“An incredibly effective way of doing this is through play and creative activities and we have many resources including emotion puppets and a “box of feelings” to help with this. The biggest reward is to see a child going from one that says nothing to one who says they can now tell their family all about how they are feeling.
“I feel so passionate about Rennie Grove that now I find myself supporting the charity in other ways including taking part in activities such as the Moonlight Walk that help to raise funds to enable this amazing charity to continue to be able to provide its specialist care to local patients. I’ve also really enjoyed attending Rennie Grove’s Jigsaw induction programme and the annual conference last year where I met such a wide range of people from other parts of the organisation and learnt more about all the services we offer.
“Rennie Grove provides such wonderful services and while my priority as a volunteer is all about my clients, I get so much out of it personally too.”
Karen Neill is the Children’s and Family Support Therapist at Rennie Grove and is Elaine’s supervisor. Karen said: “The positive difference that our family support volunteers like Elaine make is simply amazing. It is thanks to them that we can reach out and help so many more clients who need listening and counselling support to help them while they grieve.
“Just like Elaine, all our children’s support volunteers have a previous experience of working with children and families and receive a comprehensive family support training programme with additional specialist modules around working with children and their families before they start working with clients.
“We work closely with families to agree what support will be most effective for their child. So for example we will often work directly with parents and carers to empower them to be able to support their child themselves. That might mean advising on how best to deal with questions about why their family member is very unwell or has died and the most appropriate language to use. Or it could mean sharing techniques that encourage a child to express how they are feeling through play.
“We offer our children ongoing support so that they can come back into our service at any time. As children mature and develop they may need to revisit their grief and make sense of their loss as they approach adulthood. Our support is here whenever it is needed.
“And in terms of supporting our volunteers themselves then we have a monthly group supervision sessions where we share learning within the team and discuss any issues that have arisen during the month. I am available to talk to or meet with volunteers at any time they need me.”
Summing up, Karen said, “It is a true pleasure to work with Elaine and to have her on the team. The care she has for the children and the families she works with is so apparent.”