How volunteering helped Fiona to continue making a difference after retirement

As a young engineering graduate in 1988, I entered the world of industry, climbing the ladder of a privileged, educated, white employee. However, as a woman in a male-dominated environment, I had my first taste of issues around gender equality in the workplace.

I retrained as a part-time primary teacher when I started my family. In that role, I experienced how some real inequalities in life can start at a very young age. I also have a son with hidden disabilities and have had to ‘fight the system’, that I already understood as a teacher, to allow him to achieve his potential in education and life in general. Again, the privilege of my role showed me that not all families have the ability or support to do this for their own children.

In my previous roles, I worked best when I was supporting or enabling others, such as learning with and supporting other parents of autistic children to manage challenging repetitive behaviours, educating colleagues about children with autism and ADHD in the classroom, or, as a union rep, providing health and safety support to staff through the pandemic. As a result, in taking early retirement from teaching this year, I was looking for a role that would allow me to further develop my passion for supporting or enabling others, but particularly when inequality results in disadvantage in society.

In joining Citizens Advice Gateshead (CAG) as a volunteer advisor, I hope to fulfil this ambition in a role in which I can make a difference. I have been overwhelmed by the support that I have received from those supervising my recruitment and training.

Despite taking longer than I originally planned for my training, and my scrupulous attention to understanding every detail of being an effective advisor, nothing has been too much trouble for those that I have run to for help! If patience and the ability to empathise are virtues, then CAG is full of virtuous people. I am only just beginning to understand the vast reach and influence of the organisation so I know that there will be many other roles, which may also allow me to do what I do best and ‘be my whole self’ in the workplace. As a newly retired person, who wants to participate in improving our society for everyone, who could ask for more?

Interested in volunteering with Citizens Advice Gateshead? Click here to find out more.

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