The many benefits of volunteering

Citizens Advice volunteer Jacquie Kelly.
Citizens Advice volunteer Jacquie Kelly.
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Citizens Advice Northumberland is a registered charity that relies on volunteers to provide the invaluable service that helps so many people within your community.

Last year, we provided information and advice to around 11,000 local people on a wide range of subjects. The problems most often asked about concern employment, debt, housing or benefits, but we will help with any enquiry, including consumer rights, legal matters and immigration.

All sorts of people volunteer with us, for lots of different reasons. We asked Jacquie, a volunteer at our Alnwick office, to explain why she joined us, her experience so far and what a difference it makes to her life.

She said: “When the holiday of early retirement was over, I realised there must be some volunteer work where I could use the skills that I had developed over many years. I considered The Samaritans, then came upon Citizens Advice.

“At the start, I was unsure as to which of the variety of volunteer roles I would prefer, but it soon became apparent that perhaps an advisor role was for me.

“I love learning and have never stopped – conferences, journals, workshops, online courses, in-house courses. There is always something new and, importantly, it is well supported. Not only are there online resources, but a training supervisor, and colleagues are always willing to point you in the right direction.

“The advice session supervisor deserves a special mention. I never feel alone when working with clients and the session supervisor not only ensures the quality and accuracy of advice, but is also there when I need a rant or I’m upset by what a client has told me. The resources available to support the work are second to none. I don’t always find the information straight away, but again, colleagues are there to help.

“The days are never the same. You never know what a client is going to tell you, and I find this challenging in a good way. We can never assume. We are working with individuals and a situation or event affects different people in different ways. We meet people from all walks of life, enriching my life experience.

“Working with clients to help them understand and find a solution to their issue or problem is very satisfying. Sometimes it can be pointing to a section on our website. There is so much misinformation on the internet that it can be daunting for people to decide what can be trusted. Having our website and a few other regulated sites means that we can rely on quality information.

“Many of society’s support systems are not fair to all, and by monitoring and reporting when we find these is an important aspect to the work of Citizens Advice – to campaign and speak out for those who, for whatever reason, cannot do this themselves. A collective voice is heard above the individual, especially a well-respected collective voice.

“I have always enjoyed supporting people and I feel privileged to be able to do this in my community. It feels that the skills that I learnt from my many jobs have culminated in this role. I have a sense of purpose. I am stimulated by meeting clients and supporting them in different ways. I read recently that volunteering lowers the blood pressure – there’s another good reason.

“I am lucky. I have enjoyed my working life. Now I am enjoying my retirement, still being of use and contributing to society. I am at the start of this journey and I look forward to the road ahead.”

Whatever your reason for volunteering, this is a chance to make a real difference to the lives of local people whilst experiencing the benefits of being part of a trusted national charity.

To find out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice Northumberland, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/support-us/volunteering/ or contact Jane Brown on 01665 604136 or janebrown@citizensadvicenorthumberland.org.uk