Two Oxford women raise awareness of a local family support charity on International Women’s Day

An Oxford mum, who was matched with a home visiting volunteer to help her as a disabled parent, is saying thank you on International Women’s Day (March 8) to raise awareness of the power of compassionate support by Home-Start Oxford.

Lizzie Dean, felt alone and frustrated facing the challenges of becoming a new mum while dealing with neurological conditions affecting her mobility.

But thanks to volunteer Silvia Llorens, who was matched to support her, Lizzie said she found light in the dark.

“When I found out I was pregnant I was elated, but I felt a deep sense of anxiety about how I was going to cope as a disabled mum,” Lizzie said.

“Suffering from two neurological conditions I have trouble walking, balancing and swallowing, I can suffer from bouts of vertigo and when I stand up my heart rate rockets and I can pass out.

“I had assumed that as a disabled parent, it would be easy to access support, but I hit so many dead ends and it felt like I didn’t fall under anyone’s remit. Finding out that Home-Start offered support was such a boost. At first I was supported by Lisa, one of the Family Support Coordinators, and then I was matched with Silvia.

“Silvia is amazing. She really helps me think outside the box. Together we’ve thought about the challenges that face me – even what would seem like simple things like standing to prepare meals, or tidying toys away – and we’ve come up with workable solutions.

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is how to get out and about. On my own I could use mobility aids and be independent, but adding a little person into the mix changed everything!

“Silvia and I did some research and found a lightweight mobility scooter from Canada that could fold up and go in the car, but they’re really expensive! Silvia helped me set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money. It changed everything and just a few months later we got our ‘magic wheels’!

“Silvia has given me new confidence in myself. Now I find myself thinking ‘do you know what, why can’t I do that!’ – I just need to find out how I can do it a little differently.

“Now we’re also able to go on the Home-Start buggy walks and meeting other mums in real life has been such a lovely experience. Just getting out every day has a huge positive impact on both of us. I felt like I’d totally lost my independence and freedom but thanks to Home-Start I now have it back!”

Home-Start Oxford is one of a network of more than 180 Home-Starts across the UK which supports parents through their toughest times on a wide range of issues including helping with postnatal depression, isolation, loneliness, bereavement, coping with twins or financial worries.

Parents are matched with a trained volunteer who visits once a week for two hours to help in whatever way they would like.

International Women’s Day was set up to shine a spotlight on activity which uplifts and inspires women to pursue goals without bias or barrier.

Silvia, who has been a Home-Start volunteer for 2 years, said: “Knowing that I can make a difference as a volunteer gives me such a boost. Lizzie and I have really connected and the whole experience has greatly enriched my life.”