Volunteering at Citizens Advice – “..unpaid not because you are worthless, but priceless..”

After finishing my first year studying a law degree, I had learned everything from offer and acceptance to murder and sexual assault.

Learning all the theoretical elements and digging my head into the textbooks, I decided to volunteer at Citizens Advice, formerly known as the Citizens Advice Bureau. I wanted to get an understanding of how the law impacts people on a day to day basis.

Citizens Advice helps people with a whole array of issues including homelessness, mental health issues, benefits and debts.  They also thrive on the help of volunteers and the generosity of strangers who donate to them. Upon entering my first day I notice a plaque on the wall stating, ‘volunteers aren’t paid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless’. This has remained in my head since the day I started as it is a beautiful way to motivate volunteers to do their very best. I was introduced to the other volunteers – who are the nicest people I have ever met. Each of the volunteers are passionate about helping people and doing all they possibly can, walking down every avenue available to help their client.

This opportunity has allowed me to see at a practical level how to deal face to face with some very vulnerable clients who suffer from homelessness, mental health issues and those close to eviction.

Additionally, I have seen how Citizens Advice helps clients on a personal level through the way my supervisor goes to all lengths possible to find the best solutions for her clients. The dedication posed by the volunteers is unmatched and is in many ways very moving.

I decided to take on two different roles, firstly I am an admin volunteer. My role includes filing client files, drafting letters and helping the advisors with anything they may need. On many occasions, I have seen clients become agitated, frazzled and confused and over time I have learned how to calm them down. The key skill is to listen, being able to sympathise with their predicaments and show them you are there to offer support. Allow them to explain their situation and hear their story, to help you understand and advise them on the best course of action to take.

My second role is the co-editor of the Bureau Buzz, Epping district. I was lucky enough to be accepted, and worked on my first newsletter in June. My role involves editing the format and layout of the buzz before sending them out to the staff members. I work with my fellow editor to create a colourful and informative buzz. It includes dates and events that are coming up, reminders and achievements of staff members.

My time volunteering at Citizens Advice made me realise that although our roles individually seem minuscule, when looking at the bigger picture, you realise that all efforts are helping someone else’s life. I may be a volunteer for a short amount of time, but I would love to stay for longer and see many more smiles.

Thanks to Rabiya Khawaja for telling us so much about her volunteer role at Citizens Advice. Maybe something others might like to get involved in?

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