Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk veteran Bim Wilson, based in Stowmarket, celebrates 30 years of volunteering
“Is it legal to sunbathe nude in the garden?”
In the first telephone query she took as a volunteer for Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk in spring 1991, Bim Wilson was stumped for an answer.
“I think I rang the police and they said ‘providing you’re not causing a public nuisance you can sunbathe in the nude in the back garden,” Mrs Wilson remembers. “I passed that on and I’ve never been asked that again.”
In a baptism of fire for the volunteer, the next call was from someone who wanted to know their rights if they were to squat in an empty house.
“You’re meant to be able to give a sensible answer to anything,” she said. “It has slightly changed now. We’re all in one room and there’s a supervisor there so you can immediately ask for help but then you were left in a room by yourself so you had to cope.”
Celebrating 30 years with the charity in Stowmarket, Mrs Wilson is their longest serving volunteer and known for always being willing to help colleagues, according to chief officer Simon Clifton.
“Bim is caring and understanding and at the same time she has a no-nonsense approach that helps our clients to make difficult choices,” he said.
Mrs Wilson, of Earl Stonham, joined Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk when she was looking for something else to do and it has been an ‘interesting and rewarding’ journey.
“My children were all in their teens and I had a small business at home which ran perfectly well without me,” she said. “It’s very nice to have an identity outside the home and I would recommend it to anybody who has time.”
Her most memorable role was her five years as a benefits volunteer representing claimants at tribunals.
“Sometimes it was distressing if they didn’t get the benefits you felt they should but it was quite rewarding when they did,” said Mrs Wilson.
Over the decades, as life has become complicated and technology-driven, people have needed more help from the charity, which has 35 volunteers.
“I think everything has got much more complicated for people who aren’t IT savvy,” she said. “Otherwise, on the whole I think people’s standard of living has gone up so it isn’t all bad news but it’s quite complicated to negotiate it all.”
Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk is looking for more volunteers to join the Stowmarket team.