Giv­ing good ad­vice for 40 years

Rotorua Weekender - - News -

On Sun­day the Ro­torua Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau will cel­e­brate 40 years of ser­vice to the Ro­torua com­mu­nity.

In that time, the 447 vol­un­teers who have trained and worked as bureau in­ter­view­ers have as­sisted 585,680 clients with all sorts of ques­tions and prob­lems, rang­ing from how to spell words to se­ri­ous and com­pli­cated em­ploy­ment, hous­ing, con­sumer or re­la­tion­ship is­sues.

The bureau will be mark­ing the oc­ca­sion with a high tea at­tended by past and present vol­un­teers and the launch of a 2019 Ro­torua Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau cal­en­dar.

Man­ager Jane Eynon-richards says the ser­vice has al­ways been about help­ing peo­ple, em­pow­er­ing them to take ac­tion, or ad­vo­cat­ing on their be­half.

The most com­mon en­quiries re­ceived by the 65 vol­un­teers who staff the phones and desks nowa­days are still around em­ploy­ment rights, gen­eral le­gal rights and in­for­ma­tion, fam­ily, re­la­tion­ship and neigh­bour­hood is­sues, with sev­eral clients also call­ing each month look­ing for emer­gency hous­ing, bud­get ad­vice and gen­eral en­quiries on how to make ends meet.

Jane says there has also been a few un­usual en­quiries over the years, in­clud­ing ask­ing if the vol­un­teer could iden­tify a spi­der in their bath, ask­ing how they could do­nate their body to science when they died, and a boy who rang to ask how to tie his bowtie for his first school ball.

The CAB was started in 1978 by a group of en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple who placed an ad­ver­tise­ment in the Ro­torua Daily Post news­pa­per, call­ing for in­ter­ested vol­un­teers. From the ini­tial ad­vert 15 keen vol­un­teers were se­lected, at­tended a three-month train­ing course and then pro­vided a lim­ited ser­vice out of an empty sec­ond hand shop in Arawa St which was await­ing de­mo­li­tion. The Zen build­ing now stands on that site.

Num­bers soon swelled to nearly 40 vol­un­teers and in the first year of ser­vice those 40 vol­un­teers as­sisted 4056 clients.

To cre­ate the lo­cal database, each vol­un­teer was given the names of sev­eral com­mu­nity groups to re­search and find their de­tails — place, pur­pose, hours, con­tact phone — and what was nos­tal­gi­cally called the cardex sys­tem was born.

This sys­tem was re­placed by com­put­ers in the early 1990s and in 2003 cab­net was launched — a state of the art (at the time) web­site and data stor­age, re­trieval and record­ing sys­tem — which is cur­rently be­ing up­dated.

Over the 40 years, the bureau has been lo­cated at a num­ber of venues — Pukaki St, the former District Coun­cil build­ing back in Arawa St, the former Com­mu­nity House in Hau­papa St and then the cur­rent lo­ca­tion at 1143 Eruera St.

While vol­un­teer and en­quiry num­bers grew so did the need to em­ploy a paid staff mem­ber to co­or­di­nate fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, vol­un­teer train­ing, in­for­ma­tion, pub­lic­ity, col­la­tion of the sta­tis­tics and all the other ad­min­is­tra­tive and bu­reau­cratic tasks that go with pro­vid­ing a pro­fes­sional, rel­e­vant vol­un­tary ser­vice.

Dawn Sil­cock was the first paid co-or­di­na­tor, fol­lowed by Al­i­son Per­rin and then Jane Eynon-richards who has held the role for the past 15 years.

The Ro­torua bureau has a good rep­u­ta­tion for re­tain­ing its vol­un­teers.

Josie Yet­senga was made a life mem­ber at the 30th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions in 2008 — she was a found­ing mem­ber and still keeps an eye on what vol­un­teers are up to.

Sev­eral oth­ers have worked as vol­un­teers for more than 30 years, and there is a large per­cent­age who have been with the bureau be­tween 15 and 25 years.

Over the years the type of ser­vice pro­vided to clients has also ex­panded and the bureau now of­fers a wide range of clin­ics and ser­vices.

Photo / sup­plied

Ro­torua Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau vol­un­teers (from left) Vera, Achla, Jill and Pauline in the of­fice.

Photo / sup­plied

Man­ager Jane Eynon-richards and vol­un­teer Terry at the Ro­torua Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau.

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