On the 16th April 2012 I started work as a Development worker with Dunfermline Advocacy. six years later and I am moving on to new challenges but I will take with me a lot of experience, lessons and happy memories. In order to ensure I don’t get to coast through the final few weeks of my employment I have been tasked with writing a blog to reflect on my time with the organisation. I am quite reflective by nature so I was happy to agree. The difficulty is picking out what the highlights have been so instead I thought I’d cover the main things I have learned during my time in this draughty old office.
Your job description is only the start
The Job title says “Citizen Advocacy Development worker” and for the most part that is accurate but working in the Voluntary sector means you have to be versatile. Over the past 6 years I have been a taxi driver, handyman, film maker, gardener, marketing exec, personal shopper, bag packer, cleaner, cook and even threw myself down a zip wire from the roof of East End Park… All in the name of charity. At no point was any of that grudged though because that’s the nature of the work. In return you get to work with some of the most motivated people in any line of work who regularly bring cake to the office.
People are kind
I have to confess to not having done much in the way of volunteering myself before taking up this post and I did wonder how easy it would be to recruit Citizen Advocates. While it is always a challenge and we never have as many as we would like it is truly heart-warming to look back at the end of every year and notice the number of folk who have given freely of their time for no other reason than to make someone else’s life that little bit better. While I may be leaving the Voluntary Sector (for now) the lessons of kindness and humility will stay with me.
It is important to stick to your principles…
Dunfermline Advocacy has been around for 25 years and in the current climate that is a remarkable feat. Over my six years and no doubt on plenty of occasions prior there have been opportunities to change what we do in order to chase a pocket of funding or tie ourselves in with the latest trend. Citizen Advocacy, however, is what we do… And we do it well… And it works. Establishing long term partnerships that stand the test of time is not easy and it can only be done one person at a time. But the difference it makes to that one person can be enormous. “To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world”… Dr Seuss said that.
…But be willing to change with the times
All of that doesn’t mean we haven’t changed however. New branding, new website, thriving social media channels, different recruitment methods and a wider remit of people with whom we work are just a few of the changes that I have seen over the past 6 years and no doubt there will be more to come.
It’s the small things that matter
Above all though there is no one big lesson I will take with me but rather the memory of the thousands of little differences that Citizen Advocates make to the lives of their partners, often without even realising it. The “how are you?” that no one else has asked all week, The chair next to someone at a care review meeting that would otherwise be empty, the chat about the weather that distracts someone from how anxious they feel about an appointment. These aren’t always the things that people imagine would make the big difference to somebody but often it’s the small things that count the most.
So today I will leave the office one final time with lots of happy memories, countless lessons learned and, with any luck, a belly full of cake.
Good luck Ewan from everyone here at Dunfermline Advocacy.