Annie Sleven – my volunteer story

05 June 2019

Retired Head Teacher Annie Sleven joined Home-Start Aberdeen four years ago. At the time, she’d never heard of Home-Start before.

“I wasn’t ready to be retired. I was still very motivated and wanted to be involved with something. I still get to use my mind and my skills and the greatest reward for me is seeing parents empowered and children more able. It’s what you want.”

Read Annie’s story about her journey as a volunteer and trustee with Home-Start Aberdeen.

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Annie Sleven – my volunteer story

I first got involved with Home-Start Aberdeen in April 2015. I was approached by a friend to join as a trustee. They were keen to bring someone onto the board with a background in education. As a retired head teacher they were keen for me to be that person and use my skills and knowledge to assist the team and the organisation.

At the time I didn’t think I had much value to add as a trustee but I was interested in finding out more. Although I’d recently retired, I wasn’t ready to just stop and I was keen to be involved in something; I just didn’t know what. I’d worked with children and families since my twenties and had considered that maybe I wanted to do something different.

Although I hadn’t heard of Home-Start before I was approached, I agreed to go along and find out more. I made the decision not to join the board of trustees at that time but instead chose to become a home-visiting volunteer. I felt if I was going to add value to the board in the future I needed to know what the organisation did and experience first-hand volunteering with families. So, I completed my volunteer training and started to support families. I gained a lot from this experience and shared many ups and downs with my families, supporting them to deal with challenges they faced.

I continued to attend board meetings during this time, really as a visitor, and in 2016 I became a trustee with a focus on education.

In early 2017 we started talking about a project called - Big Hopes, Big Future - that had been piloted in England. I stated an interest in developing this if it was ever to come to Scotland.

Big Hopes Big Future is all about helping parents give their children the support they need before starting school. The project helps improve school readiness providing guidance and encouragement to those who need it most to ensure that children can start school on a level with their peers.

I now felt I was in a prime position, with my skills and experience in education, to start adding value to the board through leading the Big Hopes Big Future project for Home-Start Aberdeen.

I love what I am doing, my skills are put to good use and I passionately believe in the project and its impact for families and children. If we’re truly trying to create equality for all children then what we are doing is an absolute necessity.

We received training to deliver the project and then trained our own groups of volunteers locally.At the end of 2017 we approached an Aberdeen school with a view to roll out Big Hopes Big Future within the school environment, supporting children and parents.

The project is proving to be a great success. Schools are telling us the project is having a positive impact on children - they really are more ready for school after taking part in Big Hopes Big Future.

So, we’re now about to expand into our fourth school, running sessions with the parents around school readiness alongside working with individual families.

Parents are telling us they feel more confident to support their children's learning and understand the crucial role they play in their children's early learning and development.

It’s been great to see parents coming together and realising they are not the only ones with challenges and problems. They’ve started to support one another, sharing experiences and offering advice and ideas to each other.

Every parent wants the best for their child. We’re just giving them the tools to help them.

I’ve learned a lot. Home-Start is such a fantastic organisation. The team are dedicated, caring, non-judgemental, and I’m so glad to be a part of it. There’s such a huge desire to do the best for a family – there’s a real emotional commitment.

Why do I volunteer with Home-Start Aberdeen?

I wasn’t ready to be retired. I was still very motivated. I wanted to be involved with something. At the time I didn’t know what that was and I didn’t know about Home-Start before being approached. Once I knew more and saw that I could continue to support children and families I knew it was a good thing for me.

What do I get from it?

I love being able to use my enthusiasm, skills and energy to find different ways of doing things and combining this with my years of knowledge and experience in education to make a real difference. I get great satisfaction from that. I still get to use my mind and my skills. That doesn’t just stop when you retire and the greatest reward for me is seeing parents empowered and children more able. It’s what you want.

That’s my passion and providing every child with the opportunity they deserve.

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