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Changing people’s lives

IMG_6313 v2 Fran is a volunteer in our Financial Capability team and values the experience and challenges it offers

I have always been active in various societies and clubs over the years, so when I started my graduate degree in law in London two and a half years ago and didn’t involve myself in any cause for the first year, something was missing.

Gateway volunteer

I decided to apply for a volunteer position at Westminster Citizens Advice as I wanted to gain experience advising clients. However, I was asked during my interview whether I would also consider becoming a financial capability volunteer. The position was described as consisting of delivering workshops on personal finance topics, but the intensity of the task certainly did not hit me until I had accepted the offer about a week later.

I soon realised I had been naïve and that, obviously, delivering workshops would also mean preparing materials and forging relationships with other organisations who might host our workshops. Most of all,  it meant having to acquaint myself with entirely new topics.

Being the first volunteer on the team,  it fell to me to create a library of materials for various topics and to come up with lesson plans. I was then thrown into the deep end after a few weeks to deliver my first workshop. While I generally enjoy public speaking, standing in front of people I had never met before to talk about topics I had only really studied for a few weeks was a different challenge altogether.

Tremendous journey

But guess what? I’ve loved it. The past year and a half has been an enjoyable and tremendous journey that has seen me become much more confident, compassionate, and courageous, both professionally and personally.IMG_6311 v2

I have been incredibly lucky in how much freedom, responsibility, and trust I have been given in my work. Every time I come in, my tasks are as varied as I want them to be. Some days I spend hours emailing people and thinking of ways to publicise our work. Others, I spend hours creating leaflets with computer programs I hadn’t even heard of before, and then more hours printing and folding them perfectly. From time to time, I even like to cause havoc in the office by forcing everyone to participate in yet another food-related event or bake-off.

If a workshop is coming up, I will stare at the computer screen all day hoping- and most of the time managing – to  become an expert in the topic in time for my presentation. And on days that I deliver workshops, I often spend a frustrating amount of time inspecting London’s public transport system. I’m sure you can imagine that boredom is an unheard of occurrence here.

What do I get back ?

When people find out I volunteer, they sometimes ask what I gain from it since I’m not getting paid. The answer is simple: there is nothing like the feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness you get before a workshop, because you’re wondering who will be there and what the group dynamic will be like. There is nothing like the rush of endorphins that washes over you once you’ve finished the workshop and realise you have given someone the confidence to take control of what goes on in their life. There is nothing like working on new materials or developing a new public campaign and then seeing your hard work come to life. And most of all, there is nothing like the humbling and eye-opening experience of meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise have met, and whose different outlooks on the world you would have missed, had you not decided to give back to society a little.

I can highly recommend volunteering with Citizens Advice Westminster so get in touch with if you want to find out more.

You can visit our website to see our financial capability information and resources.




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