I’m going to introduce you to Brenda.
Brenda, who is 61, has been married to Maurice for 43 years (congrats!) and together they have been raising their 12-year-old grandson and 10-year-old granddaughter, who both have Autistic Spectrum Disorders, for the last 10 years. But that is not all. Brenda is also one of 11 volunteers who have completed training with the Relative Experience Project, and is now patiently waiting to be matched up to support a kinship carer in the North East.
In the past, Brenda had been part of a similar project working with a disabled charity and felt that she was prepared for her new role but soon realised that there was more to learn. “The trainers were wonderful and passed on lots of knowledge and built up my confidence,” said Brenda. “There wasn’t too much paper work involved which was a big plus and we could shout out answers, go and a get a drink and even pop to the loo without asking. It wasn’t like being at school at all.”
The training consisted of four sessions over four weeks which worked around school times because of the volunteers’ other commitments. “The training works around us, there is no pressure and no-one is constantly watching the clock thinking we need to leave to get the kids.”
In the run up to the Relative Experience befriending training Brenda felt apprehensive. “I felt really nervous but those worries were for nothing as the training was relaxing and friendly, the group soon bonded because we had a mutual understanding of how difficult things can be and how important the work we will be doing with other kinship families is.”
The training not only helped Brenda prepare for her new role but she personally gained a lot from it. She found comfort sitting in a room with strangers, who later became friends, knowing that they were there for the same reason. “Relative experience is a great project,” commented Brenda. And it’s something which she feels she would have benefited from 10 years ago when she and her husband took on the care of their grandchildren. Brenda found the experience of becoming a kinship carer a daunting time, especially with the lack of support. Her difficult experience of becoming a kinship carer is the main reason that Brenda decided to volunteer with the project and become a befriender. She wants to give kinship carers what she never had. Someone who will listen, empathise and point them in the right direction.
Posted by Alana Genge, Grandparents Plus