Bureau still go­ing strong

Marlborough Midweek - - Front Page -

By SVEN HERSEL­MAN The Marl­bor­ough Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau is this month cel­e­brat­ing 35 years of be­ing the go-to place for res­i­dents and tourists alike for just about any ques­tion.

One vol­un­teer, Janette Soper has been with the or­gan­i­sa­tion since the doors opened in Blen­heim in 1979, giv­ing her Fri­day morn­ings to help oth­ers. Well over three decades later, she is still lov­ing it.

‘‘I have no plans to re­tire. I keep say­ing to them that if I’m be­ing a bit dod­dery they must tell tell me.

‘‘I am still find­ing it in­ter­est­ing – ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent,’’ she says.

Send­ing some­one out the door with their ques­tion an­swered and a feel­ing there may be a so­lu­tion to their prob­lem, is all the pay­ment Janette needs. There is al­most no ques­tion that she hasn’t en­coun­tered in the 35 years, and al­though she has heard some heart-break­ing sto­ries she does her best not to let it af­fect her.

‘‘You do hear some bad sto­ries but you can’t let it get to you, you have to keep it sep­a­rate to your life. It’s re­ally nice though to see some­one go out re­lieved to know there is some­one who can help Ser­vice: Marl­bor­ough Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau vol­un­teers Sandy Smith, left, Janette Soper and Shirley Smith are at hand to give out free and con­fi­den­tial ad­vice to Marl­bor­ough res­i­dents and vis­i­tors. them,’’ Janette says. The bureau doesn’t seek to solve people’s prob­lems, but rather steers them to­wards an or­gan­i­sa­tion which can. On that front Janette has seen how ser­vice groups have in­creased over the decades in the prov­ince.

‘‘ There are so many more groups in Marl­bor­ough who you can turn to for help – there is a lot of help out there,’’ she says.

She has of course also seen how the bureau has changed, from the train­ing for new vol­un­teers to their fil­ing sys­tem. Be­fore com­put­ers were brought in all the in­for­ma­tion was kept on cards.

Learn­ing to use an ever evolv­ing com­puter sys­tem has been some­thing Janette has en­joyed as it helps keep her mind fit.

The train­ing when she started was also very dif­fer­ent. ‘‘The only ques­tion they asked us was ‘what would you do if a mother brought her 16-year-old daugh­ter in who was preg­nant?’.’’

The train­ing has changed a fair bit since then and vol­un­teers are well pre­pared to deal with just about any query.

Peter Goodin was part of the group which started the bureau and re­mem­bers the hard work that went in dur­ing the early days. The ser­vice was lit­tle-used though for around four or five years, Peter re­mem­bers.

‘‘I left af­ter about six years and it was only then start­ing to be­come well used by the pub­lic.

‘‘For some rea­son it took a long time be­fore people be­came aware of it – it was a pretty dis­cour­ag­ing but we stuck with it and I’m so glad we did,’’ Peter says.

He re­joined as a vol­un­teer a year ago and was blown away at the ad­vances made over the years.

Know­ing that he was part of it at the start is very heart­en­ing, he says.

The bureau is based at the Trust­bank Com­mu­nity Trust Build­ing, 25 Al­fred St, Blen­heim.

Photo: SVEN HERSEL­MAN

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