More volunteers from Rotorua and Tauranga are needed to provide practical and emotional support to victims of crime and trauma in the Bay of Plenty.
Victim Support BOP area manager Lydia Allan said about 20 people currently volunteer their time across the region, including the Western Bay, but it was a 24/7 service so the organisation was keen to hear from anyone who might be interested in joining.
A $15,000 grant from BayTrust to Victim Support (NZ Council) will be spent on the Bay of Plenty volunteer programme to provide the necessary training and resources for both volunteer workers and the victims they walk alongside.
"Sadly the need in the Bay is ongoing and significant," Allan said.
"We supported 2500 people across the Bay of Plenty last year. Serious vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, family and sexual violence are the most common referrals we receive. So recruiting enough volunteers to deliver the service, that's our key challenge and ensuring the training we're giving is relevant and as up-to-date as possible."
Volunteers from all walks of life are required. Key skills include being able to communicate with a diverse range of people, empathy and a caring nature.
However, Allan says support workers must be able to maintain professional boundaries and remain objective in order to see what help the victim needs at that particular point in time.
The work was emotionally challenging but the satisfaction was immense.
"The reward is in seeing that victim start to head towards normality for them, and feeling empowered enough that they can begin to move forward in their life. That's the reward we all get from it."
About 80 per cent of Victim Support's annual budget is Government-funded while the remainder must be fundraised or sourced from community funding organisations such as BayTrust.
"This grant is a huge help. It means we've got that little bit more money toward what we need for the year. We also feel encouraged and supported – it tells us the community appreciate the work we do."
BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said providing the right training for Victim Support volunteers is crucial to the success of the service. "Victim Support volunteers help people in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident. They guide people through any police investigation and subsequent court cases and are even available many years later during Parole Board hearings. Well-trained volunteers can help victims navigate that whole process and help bring some peace and normalcy back into their lives."
Anyone who is interested in becoming a Victim Support volunteer is welcome to call 0800 Volunteer or visit www.victimsupport.org.nz for more information.