How did you get into volunteering for Citizens Advice in West Sussex (CAWS)?
My university advertised joining the CAB as a module option and I thought that this would be a great way to help people and gain experience with legal issues at the same time.
Tell us about your role at the charity and how it relates to your studies?
My role involves taking phone calls from people that ring into the CAB, and advising them on their rights for their situation. This involves using all the resources available to me, including the CAB public site and seeking guidance from my supervisor. As previously mentioned, this is a module option that explores theoretical points such as access to justice. This provides a practical element to the theoretical, allowing me to consolidate my learning and see every issue in a different way.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
I enjoy the act of helping people when I can. The moments at the end of a call where the person on the other side acknowledges that there is a way out of their situation, for example, is extremely fulfilling and is probably the part I enjoy the most. Knowing that you are making an impact and difference in your area is rewarding, and is an attractive proposition for any student that wants any impactful experience whilst helping individuals.
Have you gained any skills since volunteering?
There are many skills you gain, but the main skill I’ve surprisingly picked up is communicating effectively over the phone. As students, I find that we don’t often use phones in this way, and I found it difficult at first to communicate without body language. However, it also forces you to focus on the content via active listening which is crucial in any client-facing job. It also means you must be more concise and articulate when speaking, which is a great skill to develop.
What has been the most valuable part of your volunteering experience?
The most valuable part for me has been being able to broaden my perspective. Whilst I can use this in my studies when talking about theoretical concepts, it has more importantly made me more empathetic and attentive to issues where I would previously see none.
How have you found volunteering remotely?
There’s lots of support available online, so in terms of working remotely, I’ve found that it hasn’t changed at all. The CAB has a SharePoint where every resource is easily accessible, and you have a supervisor to phone up after a call if you need it.
What would you say to other students considering volunteering for CAWS?
I would say every student should add an element of practicality to their degree and the CAB is the perfect way to do this. Not only do you help pad your CV out, but you also are helping real people with real problems, gaining a multitude of useful skills in the process.
If you’re interested in volunteering, click here.