When Pippa first applied for the role of volunteer Citizen Advocate with POhWER, she was nervous and suffering from self doubt. Pippa was a newly single mum, with small children and although she had been advocating on behalf of her daughter Chloe, who has special needs, supporting other people was something new.
Having often felt the strain of having to learn about Chloe’s rights in the “system” and having to make herself heard, Pippa had always wondered “who stands up and does all of this for people who don’t have a relative who can?”
Pippa knew she had some transferable skills, passionately wanted to help others and was also looking to the future; she now needed to provide for her young family, and was thinking about the career she had wanted before the children came along.
Pippa spent time researching voluntary opportunities that would be flexible enough to fit around her commitments, but structured enough for her to rely on. It was really important to her that the volunteering she chose offered a way of developing herself and was also on the “front line”, helping those people she had often thought about in her own battles supporting her daughter.
When Pippa came across an opportunity with POhWER, volunteering as a Citizen Advocate to make people’s voices heard she thought it was perfect and applied there and then, knowing if she left it until later she might lose confidence and not do it.
Pippa was excited and nervous about the interview and hadn’t told anyone just in case it didn’t work out. The interview went well and she started her induction shortly after. The induction sessions were challenging and interesting and after a few weeks, she was asked to start shadowing professional advocates and making phone calls; this was both exciting and a little scary…eek real people!!
First Pippa shadowed Zara an Independent Mental Health Advocate who took time to prepare her for their visit to a mental health hospital. She enjoyed shadowing Zara and watching clients get the support and information they needed to help them make informed decisions was interesting and inspiring.
Next Pippa began making phone calls and spent time with Karen her Community Development Worker, planning what she should say and covering every possible avenue the client might go down.
Pippa soon started meeting her own Citizen Advocacy clients, supported by other professional advocates and as her caseload of clients has grown so has her confidence and knowledge.
The role of Citizen Advocate with POhWER is available throughout Essex.
If you would like to know more about the Citizen Advocate role a representative from POhWER will be at the Volunteer Centre Drop-in on Thursday 14th September at Maldon Library click here for details