Giving good advice for 40 years
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.
Rotorua Citizens Advice Bureau volunteers (from left) Vera, Achla, Jill and Pauline in the office.
Manager Jane Eynon-richards and volunteer Terry at the Rotorua Citizens Advice Bureau.