Citizens Champions 

Welcome to our brand new additional blog Citizens Champions here we share insight in to your local charity Citizens Advice Gateshead and the effect we have on our community; offering a personal glimpse into the lives of those affected by Citizens Advice Gateshead.

Media Volunteer - Nicky

March marks the year anniversary since I started volunteering at Citizens Advice Gateshead (CAG). Before this I couldn't have imagined holding down a job for a year, let alone one I actually enjoy doing.

Like a quarter of people in the UK, I suffer from mental illness: I've been diagnosed with agoraphobia, PTSD and a host of other intermingling anxiety disorders. When you have a disability, everyday tasks, which seem instinctive to most people, can become complex rituals and, at times, impossible.

It was through a mental health outreach programme that I first heard about CAG. Unable to work due to my illness, I was advised to volunteer as a part of my recovery. Unfortunately, many of the volunteering opportunities available in the local area focused on retail and administrative work. However, the position available CAG offered a chance to hone the skills relevant to my interests.

At my initial interview, I nervously described the details of my condition and the limitations it places upon my ability to function in the workplace. The staff assured me that reasonable accommodations could be made: most notably, that I didn't have to stress myself into a frenzy about making it into the office every week.

I started work shortly afterwards and quickly became accustomed to my role within the media team. Within my first month, I tried my hand at copywriting, blogging, photography, marketing, graphics design, editing and even hand-modelling! My work stays both engaging and cognitively challenging.

Through this volunteering opportunity, I've managed to gain experience and hone my skills, whilst being unable to work in the traditional sense. Though the nature of my illness makes it difficult to follow a rigid work schedule, CAG has offered me the opportunity to adapt my working hours around my disability.

I'm so thankful for CAG giving me the opportunity to contribute towards the local community, despite the limitations my health places upon me.