Alice Taylor is a volunteer with the Relative Experience Project. She has just won the volunteer of the year award from North Tyneside Voluntary Organisations development Agency (VODA)
Ray Blythe, project worker for Relative Experience was asked to explain why Alice deserves an award. This is an extract of what she said…
Alice Taylor has been involved with the Relative Experience project since it started as a pilot in 2012. She has gone on to volunteer with the project after having what she describes as a “life saving” befriending experience. Alice has 3 adult children and a grandson, 6yr old Cameron. But the thing that sets her apart from other grandparents is that she is also a kinship carer – she is raising her grandson, Cameron – and this has had a profound effect on her life.
Alice’s eldest daughter suffers from severe mental ill-health problems. When she was pregnant with Cameron, Alice supported her and actually thought things would be ok for them both. But during the first four years of his life Alice provided an increasing amount of care and support for Cameron, until eventually Alice had to step in to bring him up. Her situation was difficult to say the least. She still had her own children at home – she was supporting her daughter though mental illness and she was working full time. This time proved so stressful it was a factor in her break up with her partner and took such a toll on her own health that she had to seek medical help for depression.
Speaking about that time Alice says
‘My head was in a mess – I was a mum, a step mum, and a grandma. How can any one person play the roles of all three? I had to step back from my own daughter so that I could do the best for my grandson. It hurt like hell and I suffered many nights feeling totally alone and full of despair – crying myself to sleep’
Not only does Alice volunteer as a befriender but she has created and established (with support from the Relative Experience Project) a kinship carer support group that runs fortnightly in Wallsend.
During this Summer Alice has helped in running a summer activity programme for kinship families across the region – and even organised her own event in Wallsend.
‘when it came down to it – when it was evident that my daughter could not cope, I felt I had no choice – I thought, how could I as a grandparent let my grandchild be taken away – so I had to say yes – even though the result was life changing . I kept my grandson in the family because it was the best thing for him – and there are thousands of grandparents doing the same all over the country. I hope we get more recognition and support in the future so our grandchildren, who may have had a unstable start, can look forward to a better life in the future. But this project- Relative Experience – has changed my life. ’
We are all so proud of the journey she has taken with our project, first as a service user and now as one of our volunteers. Volunteers are the foundation of our project and we would like Alice to know how incredibly grateful for her hard work we are, and how incredibly proud we are of the volunteer she has grown into.