An organisation which offers home visits to parents with new babies and toddlers is seeking volunteers.
Parent Link is looking for parents with a hour a week to spare who think they would be good company and are happy to share their experiences of being a parent with others.
“We now need to grow the service and are looking for new members to visit new parents at home offering company, practical tips and information about what activities and services are happening for parents in Galway,” explained Janet Kehelly, the co-ordinator of the service. She moved here in 2004 and missed the day-to-day contact with people.
“The parents we visit come from all walks of life and include people who are new to Galway, people on maternity leave and people who might not have a social or family network in Galway.”
Parent Link started in 2010 when the first group of members came together to offer one to one visits to parents with newborns and toddlers, she said.
“The idea came from our own experiences of sometimes feeling isolated or missing adult company in the early stages of being a new parent.”
When she moved to Galway seven years ago - a month before her son was born - she had no family here, she outlined at the time of setting up the organisation.
“Most of the people I knew were working during the day so I didn’t have much contact with adults until my partner came home from work. I missed the day-to-day contact with people and thought it would have been great to have someone to chat to about being a first time parent.”
She said while there are a lot of excellent parent and toddler groups and activities available they cannot always provide what is needed at specific times.
Having identified a service gap, Ms Kehelly set up a group to get Parent Link off the ground. The service offers parents with newborns and toddlers up to three years a weekly home visit from a volunteer parent.
“Our volunteers take part in an induction training programme and are Garda vetted. Their role is to offer company and share experiences on being a parent. It’s a chance for the parent to sit down and chat about how things are going for them. Some parents might simply enjoy a friendly chat, others might have specific things they’d like to discuss, like sleep or teething.
“The volunteers offer company and an informal chat, an opportunity to share experiences on being a parent and information about parent activities and services in the city. The service will not offer advice, counselling or advocacy. Parents will be directed to their GP or public health team for expert advice and information.
“We have a number of criteria when selecting volunteers but the key one is that they are all people you would enjoy inviting to your home – they’re practical, open, understand the ups and downs of being a parent, are good humoured and good listeners.”
She said the service may suit people who are new to Galway and do not have a family or social network.
“It may also suit someone on maternity leave or someone who feels isolated in their community because everyone is out at work, or maybe someone would just like the chance to chat with other experienced parents. Parents can use the service for as many weeks or months as they like.”
There are many similar services in the country but none in Galway city, she stated. “Many of them are located in specific areas and/or have particular target groups. Parent Link doesn’t. It will offer the service to any parent in Galway city and nearby surrounding areas.
“There are a number of parent and toddler groups in the city and they are an excellent way for parents to meet other parents. However, some parents might also like to talk to someone on a one-to-one basis at home. That way the parent gets time just for themselves to talk to someone about how things are going for them. It’s ‘me time’. Parent Link will let parents know what groups and activities are happening in Galway and some parents might like to do both. Parent Link is providing a unique service which adds to the range of services already there.”
She urged people interested in becoming volunteers to contact the organisation. “If you have about one hour a week to spare and think you’d be good company and happy to share your experiences of being a parent then we’d like to hear from you. You’ll take part in a training programme, get ongoing support and hopefully have a very rewarding experience as well.”