Three decades of advice delivered with a smile

Anne Galbraith plans to research her family genealogy.

After 30 years’ volunteering with the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, Anne Galbraith is casting her eye on other pursuits and is planning to hand in her keys.

She’s keen to research her family genealogy, so will leave the Bureau as soon as she can bow out gracefully – without leaving anyone in the lurch. News of her plans has come as a bit of a surprise to the team; it wasn’t long ago that they presented her with a certificate marking her 30 years’ service and there was little talk of her departure then.

Conceding she will miss it, she said: “I have been given more than I have ever given back in this role … just in terms of life experience.  I’ve done my eight years on the committee.  That’s enough.  I’m not going to carry on.”

The Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau opened for business in June 1983.  It was just a few years after that when Anne joined their ranks, fresh from a job that had given her a real taste for dealing with the public.

“I did my basic training in 1989 then worked in the Bureau, doing mainly telephone enquiries. It was down at the old courthouse then,” she said. “We were taught to smile when answering the phone, apparently the voice becomes friendlier.”

At that stage, information resources were limited to a card index, a telephone book and books of lists.  The shift to a nationwide computerised network of information probably ranks as the biggest transformation seen during Anne’s 30 years; the early 1993 move to the Bureau’s current premises in Alpha Street was another one.  Despite the fact the Bureau housed the information centre in Alpha Street for a while before it moved to the Cambridge Town Hall, the new premises offered the team a lot more space and things have become steadily busier as the town has grown.

Training has always been important for Bureau newcomers. Anne did a ‘training for trainers’ course and then facilitated training for up to 13 people per course. Ongoing training to maintain Bureau standards is required of all volunteers, and Anne was involved in that as well. “I enjoyed collating those sessions,” she said. “We all developed our abilities further. After eight years on the committee, I retired and just became a quiet worker on the roster.”

Overall, it’s been the companionship of the team and the satisfaction of the role that has kept her at it for 30 years.

“It was pleasing to see a client leaving the office looking happier than when they came in. It made all the training in listening, in body language and people skills worthwhile. The companionship and support of fellow workers is amazing. Their talents never fail to amaze me; at times I have felt humbled working with them. I particularly enjoyed working on the after-hours roster which the Bureau provided for a while.”

Through the variety of experiences, the technology transformation and the ongoing self-evaluation she has always done, Anne said the time was now right to step away.

“It’s time I opened a few more doors and closed this one.”

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