Volunteers are the key to how we, at Citizens Advice Caerphilly Blaenau Gwent, are helping thousands of people solve their problems each year. Our dedicated, well-trained volunteers come from all walks of life but the one thing they have in common is a desire to help people, whatever the problem and whoever they are.
Here are some of their stories…
When Pam Thomas decided to hang up her decorator overalls to pursue a Law Degree, little did she know that her first volunteer placement was going to change the course of her career.
For many law students, volunteering with Citizens Advice offers the opportunity to gain the skills and experience to help further develop their careers. Pam was put in touch with Citizens Advice Caerphilly Blaenau Gwent (CACBG) by the Gwent Association for Voluntary Organisations (GAVO).
Veteran volunteers supervisor Jill Maddison took Pam under her wing as she trained to provide general advice to clients.
“In 2008 I began to volunteer for two days at Caerphilly and one day at the Bargoed office,” said Pam. “In June 2009 a part time paid role became available and I haven’t looked back.I was offered a range of opportunities as a volunteer, first training as a generalist adviser, then a debt adviser and then a supervisor. I was fortunate to be appointed the Blaenau Office Supervisor and use the training given to develop the adviser’s skills.”
Since Pam joined us in 2008 the service has grown and in 2017 she became CACBG’s first Advice Service Manager, taking responsibility for delivering several new projects.
“I was also given the privilege of managing the volunteer supervision team, the Help to Claim team, debt services and outreach advisers,” she said. “I loved working as a volunteer when I joined. I loved the people and found it so rewarding. I didn’t anticipate the opportunities which have arisen from volunteering at the CACBG or how the service would continue to grow.
“We now have three Advice Service Managers who are responsible for both paid and unpaid staff. But our volunteers still remain at the heart of the service. They have made CACBG what it is today and I’m humbled to have started my journey here as a volunteer.”
Mike William’s Story
Our volunteers often bring with them the skills and knowledge they have developed from giving their own time to help other organisations.
Mike Williams is one volunteer who juggled his free time with us Citizens Advice Caerphilly Blaenau Gwent and the Caerphilly Library service. He now has a paid job working with our debt team.
The 52-year-old said: “When I was made redundant from my telecommunications job, I took a couple of months off to decide what I wanted to do. I looked at the GAVO website and made some enquiries before applying for CACBG and the Caerphilly Library Service.
“I soon found that both roles intertwined. At the library I was helping with digital skills. Some days it would be helping someone find information but a lot of the time I found myself helping fill online forms and helping people understand the online benefits process.”
Mike began face-to-face advising from the Bargoed Office twice weekly while still volunteering with the library every Friday.
“ I didn’t think that I would forge a new career after so long in telecommunications. The skills and knowledge I have gained helped me secure a paid job with CACBG during the pandemic. In December I joined the Generalist Advice Team and more recently I have become a specialist welfare benefits adviser for the Debt Services Team. The level of support and training provided by the volunteer team gave me the confidence to change career paths during a global pandemic.”