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Table 4 Feedback from focus groups with volunteers

From: Testing the feasibility of a sustainable preschool obesity prevention approach: a mixed-methods service evaluation of a volunteer-led HENRY programme

Theme Subtheme Comments
Engaging with HENRY Volunteers’ background ‘Me, I’ve always volunteered in the community, with children and young people, so I wanted to go onto paid work, I thought through it I could do volunteering.’
‘I had done parenting course for my children when they were younger and whatever trainings I could get my hands on, I loved doing them. I also did an NHS Breast Feeding Support worker, so I had a little bit of a background before I came and did this training.’
Life experience ‘… sometimes the parent could be going through such a difficult time and maybe your life experience as C (volunteer) has said, that you can sort of easily relate to it …, so you can relate to them.’
HENRY training Impact on volunteers ‘Yes, it was a role-play, which was really, really interesting because we thought now we have to act as volunteers. And it really made us think, about what it’s going to be like...’
‘I could use the techniques at home as well, with my children. So, that was quite useful for me.’
Not telling parents what to do ‘And you know what the answer is, but you can’t tell them, so you have to let the parent figure it out themselves. I think that is a challenge as well, definitely.’
What was missing from the training? ‘I think that was good, because it wasn’t like were advising them, you were giving them options and at the end of the day, it was their choice.’
‘When people join, I think we should be clear, “This is not what we offer, we are just here for HENRY”. Because most of them that I’ve met, always ask me for something else, other than just the programme. It could be housing, it could be immigration.’
Delivering HENRY Materials ‘Especially when you start off, and you don’t know how to deal with the situation, it was very helpful but it does take preparation time as well. You can’t just walk in and say “I’ll deliver the programme now” chapter one or two or whatever.’
Volunteer role ‘So although, you’re giving them the toolkit and everything, they get a little bit worried about what else you’re there for.’
‘I think people worry about social services, child protection, things like that and … They might be wondering what it is … what am I going to do with the information.’
Responding to parents’ needs ‘I think maybe highlighting what is important really to the family … what I found is that one family had no issues around diet and things like that, it was more around behaviour and the other family it was more around the diet.’
‘Sometimes you can plan your session for that day, or that week, but the only thing is, when we sometimes get there, the parents actually want to discuss something else. Then you sort of have to engage with them and listen to them first, and then you try and sort of bring them back to the session that you’ve prepared. That can be sometimes difficult, because we only have an hour to spend with them and you’re trying to plan everything in one hour, it normally just spills over that one hour I find.’
Challenges ‘If you think about eating well, if there is not a proper roof over your head, or you have some kind of a problem with your health, you can’t really get everything going …’
‘Because when you leave the family, you want to walk away having a sense of achievement that you’ve actually helped this family and supported them and now, they’re in a bit better position to help themselves. Then when it sort of breaks halfway, you don’t know whether they’re going to be alright.’
Challenges Feedback from parents ‘I think you just get the feedback from the mums when you finish. They’re so happy or willing to tell you how it’s gone. Trying to focus on oneself, which a mum doesn’t do, the me-time and boosting the batteries. They get sort of like “Oh my God, yes”. I mean, we didn’t realise it as mothers, but now we think “Okay I do need me time. I should have down time” that sort of thing.’
‘Because last term, there was a mum who had a child overweight, a boy, and also not eating. He only wanted takeaways, chicken nuggets, etc. and so, when we started the programme, we were trying to engage her into healthy eating etc. She knew about it, but behaviour was not very good. I only found out this term, that that boy had lost weight, he’s eating properly, engaging in school meals and also his literacy, numeracy skills have gone up.’
Benefits of HENRY ‘… when you first have a child, and if there was only a book that could just help me. And for me, even though my children are adults, I really look at the whole training and think “Wow if that was around.”
‘I think sometimes just having somebody who has a bit of life experience, or from a book, that that’s what they need and I think it’s quite empowering actually.’