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Volunteers help at second home.

SOME of the mums have become so involved in the daily life of the family and children's centre, which is based at Wychall Farm Infants' School in Staple Lodge Road, that they have become community support volunteers.

Mum Joanne Freckleton admits the centre has become a second home.

"I am pretty much here every day," said Joanne, aged 36, of Northfield. "So I was asked if I wanted to become a volunteer. It means that we get involved in helping with all kinds of events, such as trips or family barbecues."

Mum to five-year-old Zoe, Joanne is also setting her daughter a great example by undertaking as many courses as possible.

"I do everything I can," she said. "Things like managing children's behaviour and Stop It Now which looks at preventing child abuse. A lot of them means you get certificates from Bournville College which gives you something to work towards."

Joanne is also a regular at the ChattaChino where she has made firm friends with many of the mums.

"It is really good if you have had a bad weekend or if you are feeling a bit low. You can come here and have a coffee and a chat and it really helps," she says. "You can get a lot of information from other mums or it may be that you are having a problem which they can help with.

"Sometimes they will have done something with their child which they can tell you about. Or they might have tried something new and you might want to do it. It is a really good way to meet other parents and to talk to them. I have got to know a lot of mums a lot better."

Fellow volunteer Charlene Cogger, aged 28, of Balsall Heath, is also a well-known face at the centre.

"I have been coming here pretty much since the centre was built last year," said Charlene, who is mum to 13-year-old Chacarnay, seven-year-old Khya and four-year-old Nevaeh.

"I was really excited when I heard about it. I hoped it would provide a bit of respite and be somewhere we could be together without the babies for a couple of hours."

With a creche, the centre is able to offer space for parents while it also means the children have become friends.

"I like the fact you get to meet people from all different cultures," said Charlene. "It means you can understand different people and the issues they are dealing with in their lives. I also like people's recipe ideas. I am from a Caribbean background so it is nice to try foods from different backgrounds."

Charlene is also a keen student. "I have probably done about 13 courses," she said. "Things like counselling, numeracy, literacy, managing children's behaviour. When they asked me about becoming a volunteer I wanted to do it as I pretty much live here anyway - and it is all building up skills."

Outreach worker Ravinder Sembhi said the efforts of Joanne and Charlene were greatly appreciated.

"We have a team of nine community support volunteers who get involved in organising events, helping on trips and a good many of them are taking part in Race for Life this summer."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 7, 2009
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