Bureau still going strong
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.