Home is where the heart is for mum and daughter volunteers

Most women, consuming their chocolate come Mother's Day, will probably feel love, a little exhaustion and satisfaction at a job well done.

But there are women who not only bring up their own children, they generously manage to help other families who aren't having the easiest time.

Mother and daughter Liz and Lyndsey McCartney from Bangor are like that. Lyndsey (36) has two sons, Robbie (9) and Curtis (7), and started volunteering for her local branch of Home-Start two years ago. She wanted to help because she knew what it was like to have problems.

"I'd gone through a difficult patch myself and my mum Liz supported me by minding the boys. It made life easier having an extra pair of hands, and I wanted to help other people who don't have that support." After seeing an ad in a local paper, Lyndsey signed on and completed her training.

After an interview, she was assigned to a family for home visiting. "You visit one family at a time, sometimes helping them with transport and booking appointments, sometimes just listening and offering friendship – the fact that you're offering this to people voluntarily means a lot."

Home-Start is a UK charity that offers free help to struggling families via 24 schemes in Northern Ireland. Once she'd seen the good work her daughter was doing, Liz (60) was keen to offer her skills and became a volunteer recently.

She said: "I'd managed the Ballygrainey playgroup for 21 years and wanted to come out of retirement. Now that my grandsons are older, I have more time and I now do three to four hours' work a week with Home-Start."

Like her daughter, Liz offers the non-judgmental support that can help families with young children sort out their problems before they become entrenched.

"I work with the playgroup which allows 15 children the space to play while their parents learn to mix with other families. Although I've just started, already you can see them growing in confidence, which is lovely," Liz said.

Both mothers are helping out local families who may have financial problems or family illness or isolation to contend with.

And on March 10, the McCartneys will be heading out to a restaurant to celebrate their day with the extended family.

"Mothers shouldn't cook on Mother's Day. We'll be exchanging cards, and we know the families at Home-Start will be getting their home made cards, too," Liz says.

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