Jackie is a former Refugee Council health befriender. Recently, she presented at a European conference on Optimising Childbirth in Brussels where she spoke about the impact volunteering had on her. This is her story.
My name is Jackie.
I am originally from Cameroon, Africa. I came to the UK five years ago to join my husband. We are separated now. I have two lovely boys.
When I moved to the UK, I did not speak too much English and I became pregnant very quickly. I did not have any friends.
I did not know where was the African shop to buy food that I wanted to eat. I really had a difficult time. It was also really difficult to register with the GP. I ended up going to the drop in centre and the doctor there, after doing a pregnancy test, advised me to see a midwife.
I was scared to pay for health services. I did not know what a midwife was. I managed to get one and she was very good. She was very supportive and referred me to antenatal classes.
At the antenatal class I learnt about my choices, coping with pain during the labour and about the importance of breast feeding. I ended up doing training to become an NCT breast feeding peer supporter through a French interpreter. I am now helping others to breast feed.
Because of all the issues I have been through and also I am a caring person, I decided to do the health befriending training to help other mothers to access, without lots of difficulties, health services in the UK. I wanted to stop them going through the same struggle time that I went through.
Doing voluntary work helps me a lot in all aspects of my life. It helps me build my very low confidence. Volunteering helps me challenge myself and push me into doing things that I don’t really want to do for example I am standing in front of you now speaking which is not easy for me.
I am studying Health and Social Care now at college and my tutor keeps putting me down by saying I am too old and she also says because English is not my first language, I will never have an A in English. But I think she is wrong and I will prove it.
Volunteering has made me understand that if I push myself I am able to get wherever I want to be and do whatever I want to do. I am thinking to become a midwife in the future.