July 24th, 2015 by Sarah Tucker

Reach’s focus on skills-based volunteering means we place highly-skilled volunteers into charities on a daily basis.

We ask about the impact our volunteers are making a few months into their role, but when we heard about the difference one has made nearly a decade after our initial introduction, we knew it was a story worth telling.

I spoke to Alison Butcher, the Founder of Agents of Change about her work and about May, the volunteer who joined in 2006 and the impact she has made.

The charity’s story – Agents of Change

Agents of Change is a small charity working with vulnerable people and those with special needs in Eastern Europe, primarily Romania. Founded by Alison Butcher, following her work after the 1989 Romanian revolution, the organisation empowers people to look after their own health needs through teaching and rehabilitation in the community.

In 2006, Agents of Change desperately needed extra help to do bookkeeping, accounting, auditing, and financial management in order to keep track of their income and spending; their work overseas made this particularly complex. Reach introduced Alison to May, a volunteer with financial and bookkeeping expertise. May has been there ever since – that’s nearly ten years!

Alison said, “May was ideal for our needs. The period after May joined us was such a learning journey for me! May’s auditing background meant she hugely professionalised our financial procedures; we could not have operated at such a high standard without her help.

May has overhauled all our processes ensuring bookkeeping, receipting and audit trails are all in place which massively reduces our risk. She is an absolute joy to work with and very professional.

The longer she was with us, the more we came to appreciate her.  This is exactly how volunteering and working with someone should work – we have taught each other so much. The Reach service was fantastic though I never expected May to be with us for nine years. As a small charity with a very practical set-up, her help has been invaluable.”

The volunteer’s story – May

We spoke to May spoke to us about her near decade-long stint at Agents of Change, where she contributed her expertise to help people both in the UK and Romania:

“My experience in auditing meant I had worked in environments with high levels of control; I realised I had valuable transferable skills which could benefit a UK charity.

One of my initial challenges at Agents of Change was to teach Alison the financial processes needed to ensure best practice in the organisation. She had been doing everything on her own up to that point; I had to be very patient as we had lots to put in place. I set up a number of audit and trail systems to make the organisation more efficient.

Every transaction now has proper accountability. Alison can also implement what she has learnt when she is in Romania which means she can manage her relationships there more effectively.

Volunteering at Agents of Change meant I gained exposure to Romanian accounting procedures as well as conversion rates. As I developed professionally, I was able to benchmark how effective I was professionally, which greatly improved my confidence.

I love both teaching people and finance/auditing and was able to use both skill sets at Agents of Change. I have so enjoyed my nine years here and because of this the time has flown by!

It’s fantastic to hear about a partnership like May and Alison’s work so successfully for so long and for the charity to be doing such valuable work in Romania. However all good things must come to an end as May is emigrating, so Alison is again looking for a volunteer with financial skills to help at Agents of Change.

If you have financial background and want to share you skills (or know someone who does!) please let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Alternatively contact Alison directly to find out more about the role.

Sarah has been Reach’s Marketing and Communications Manager since September 2014

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