“How can we help?” –  Emma Williams talks about her experience of volunteering with Citizens Advice North Herts

“How can we help?” –  Emma Williams talks about her experience of volunteering with Citizens Advice North Herts

Last November, I started training to become an Adviser at Citizens Advice. For some time I had been thinking about volunteering in my local community but I wanted to find something that suited my skill set and for which my professional experience could be of value. The aims and principles of Citizens Advice really spoke to me:

Aims

  • To help people with their problems; and
  • To improve policies and practices that affect peoples’ lives

Principles

  • Free
  • Confidential
  • Independent
  • Impartial

Already, it has been an enlightening and humbling experience in so many ways:

  • I have learnt so much in the last few months on a variety of topics from benefits to housing, debt to immigration and yet I know I’ve only just scratched the surface;
  • The collective knowledge of my colleagues is astounding and they are all willing to take time out of their busy schedules to answer questions and share knowledge. I am very grateful for the kindness and patience they have shown towards myself and the other trainees;
  • The staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice come from all walks of life and bring with them a diverse range of life experiences and yet they all have the same goal – a desire to help people to overcome their problems;
  • It is reassuring to see the kindness, compassion and respect shown to every single client, whoever they are and whatever their problem;
  • The time and effort taken to campaign on big issues to drive change for the good of the wider community is inspiring.

Research has shown that helping others is beneficial for our own mental health and wellbeing and in just a few short months I have found this to be true. Working at Citizens Advice twice a week brings a smile to my face – I am passionate about the aims and principles of the citizens advice service;  I thoroughly enjoy learning and broadening my horizons; and I am grateful that I have the time and opportunity to volunteer.

We do not tell our clients what to do but we do provide information, signpost resources and discuss options. Empowering people to help themselves is a very rewarding experience and I am honoured to be part of the Citizens Advice community.

If you have never used the Citizens Advice service, I highly recommend taking a look at the website citizensadvice.org.uk There is a vast amount of information but also insight into their policy research and campaigns.

Emma Williams is a Volunteer Adviser at CANH and also works for a Management Consultancy