For Colin, being in the charity sector was second nature. So when he retired, continuing in a voluntary role made sense. Now an experienced Level 3 Volunteer Advisor, Colin gains huge satisfaction from helping people who are really struggling and has gained valued insight into the difficulties faced by so many people in our community.
What made you decide to volunteer for the CAWS?
You are asking me to remember something I decided to do more than 10 years ago! But, from memory, I had previously worked in the charity sector (Oxfam, Cancer Research and Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation) so after retiring, I guess I wanted to continue in a position where I might be of help to other people.
Likely other reasons were to do something useful and satisfying in retirement, to get involved locally (as previously I had commuted to work in London) and to continue to enjoy the interaction with others in an office situation. Maybe to do something other than gardening to keep the brain alive!
Tell us about your role at the charity?
My two main roles are face-to-face assistance and email enquiries. When reception isn’t covered, then occasionally I also deal with reception enquiries and, as and when required, other one off tasks as requested by the supervisor.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
There is huge satisfaction gained by helping other people who sometimes really struggle with life. Often it seems that some people find things that I might find straightforward, very difficult, such as drafting letters and form filling. We often see clients who just can’t face dealing with forms or, knowing that they might be in a difficult position, can’t even bring themselves to open the post. So there is huge satisfaction when clients make a point of saying how much they appreciate help given. Although not a key part of the actual role, there is the feeling of being part of a team and being able to discuss issues with fellow volunteers.
Have you gained any skills since volunteering?
A much greater knowledge of the benefits system, where to look for information and how to apply that information to help people. An interesting side effect has been the many queries I now get from other people outside of the Citizens Advice client group who seem to think I can help them with different issues. It is a good feeling to know where to turn for information which can be so helpful for friends, family and neighbours.
What has been the most valuable part of your volunteering experience?
This is difficult – maybe that this is a two way process. As a Citizens Advice in West Sussex volunteer, we learn so much about the huge difficulties faced by so many people (unemployment, mental health, disability, learning difficulties etc.) that we can in a way appreciate all the opportunities we have and be very grateful for our good fortune. So maybe it is the opportunity to give something back to society.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering for CAWS?
Just come along, see what other volunteers do and join the team!
If you’re interested in volunteering, find out more.