Zoe registered with Works for Us in 2016 after experiencing some challenging issues in her personal life. After feeling that the courses and support services were a valuable part of her journey, Zoe applied and was accepted to start volunteering with us at the start of the year. Here's her story.
Hi Zoe! It’s great to be able to chat to you during Volunteers’ Week about your personal experience of volunteering. If you cast your mind back for a moment, what were things like before you came to Works for Us?
Well, things weren’t great to be honest. I’d experienced a split from my husband, so I was in a position where I was on my own and feeling quite low, alongside experiencing some emotional problems like anxiety and depression. I really needed that extra bit of help to boost my confidence, with a view to eventually moving back in to work.
As you initially started out as a Works for Us client, what services did you access that you found helpful?
I’ve done many of the courses that Works for Us offer, including the Interpersonal Skills (IPS) and Getting Ready for Work (GRoW) course, both of which I’ve found particularly helpful. IPS is a fantastic course and really helped me at the time because my confidence was at an all-time low. It was very good at showing me how to communicate in a more assertive manner.
You officially became a member of our volunteering team in February of this year. How did volunteering become such an active and positive part of your life?
I was actually approached by a member of staff at the time who had been encouraging me for a while to fill out an application form and apply to help out on reception; she kept saying I’d be a great addition to the team so I applied, although I was hesitant as I didn’t think I’d be what Works for Us were looking for. My application was accepted so I’ve been volunteering since February this year and it’s been fab!
I started out just coming in every Thursday to cover reception and my hours gradually began to build up. So at the moment I come in on Mondays to help register new clients. Both roles are different and I love getting to help across multiple areas.
There’s plenty of variety with those roles and the services you support! What elements do you enjoy most about volunteering?
Certainly the interaction with the clients, which is good fun because you get to meet lots of different types of people. I also really enjoy getting to interact so closely with the other staff members because it’s allowed me to develop great friendships. The atmosphere here is fantastic. And I think the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping somebody else is also good because it gives the role meaning and also boosts your self-worth.
Has volunteering helped to shape your career choices in any way?
I already had an idea that I wanted to explore the counselling or coaching route in order to help others, but volunteering has given me the confidence to know that my career goals are more achievable because of the experience I’ve had working with clients here. Both roles require the talking, active listening and advising skills that I hope to develop further in my career, and uitilising them regularly is helping me to feel confident in my abilities. I'm in the process of completing my Level 2 Information, Advice and Guidance qualification and alongside volunteering, I feel assured of the direction I'm heading in.
And what would you say has been the most valuable aspect of being a volunteer so far?
I know it sounds a bit cheesy but it has to be the confidence element. I’ve completely changed from the person I used to be to the person I am now and I’m much more confident across all areas of my life, which is invaluable. Also the friendships I’ve made since being here as well; that’s a really special part of this experience for me. I feel there have been lots of positive outcomes and I'm very grateful for that.
Thanks for your fantastic feedback Zoe, we really appreciate all of your support.
Works for Us is part of Citizens Advice Milton Keynes, a local charity providing advice, guidance, and support to local people about the issues affecting their daily lives. Citizens Advice Milton Keynes is the operating name of Milton Keynes Citizens Advice & District Bureau Limited, a company limited by guarantee and a Charity registered in England and Wales number: 800012. Company Registration number: 2265182. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN: 617670 Registered office: Acorn House, 361 Midsummer Boulevard Milton Keynes MK9 3HP