After spending my first year at university studying law, learning all the theoretical elements and digging my head into the textbooks, I decided to volunteer at the citizen advice bureau to get an understanding of how the law impacts people on a day to day basis. Walking through the corridor on my first day at Citizen Advice, formerly known as the Citizen Advice Bureau. I was greeted with smiling faces. I was introduced to a friendly and caring environment in which all my colleagues were an instrumental factor in helping me settle in.
Citizens Advice thrives on the help of volunteers and the generosity of strangers. Clients come with a whole array of problems including homelessness, mental health issues, benefits and debts. This opportunity has allowed me to see at a practical level how to deal face to face with some very vulnerable clients. 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.
My main role involves administration work, filing, writing and drafting letters and helping the advisors with anything they may need. Within my fair share of time, I have witnessed many unexpected situations, clients that seem frazzled and confused about the course of action to take as well as annoyed and agitated. I have learned the way to proceed with such clients and trying to calm them down. When such situations arise being able to listen is a key skill while allowing them to explain their problems. However, the most satisfying element of being a volunteer is when you see a client that is joyful and happy after their problems are sorted.
I decided to volunteer as a co-editor of the Bureau Buzz for the 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.
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.
Written By: Rabiya Khawaja