In the past few weeks I have written about some of the volunteer organisations who partner with police.
Victim Support is a nationwide, independent incorporated society with staff in nearly every large police station in New Zealand.
At its heart is a network of volunteers who provide a free 24/7 community response to help victims of serious crime and trauma. Volunteers provide practical and emotional support; including advocacy for victims' rights.
The most common referrals in Rotorua are for tourists who have had property stolen and fatal-crash victims' families.
The trauma and shock a family experiences after a fatal crash is debilitating, making it hard for people to process information and make decisions. Victim Support volunteers are trained to guide people through the process, providing practical support and advice.
Many of the overseas tourists victimised by thieves are young, travelling on a tight budget and with their main source of family support situated on the other side of the world. In these situations, Victim Support works with local businesses and community organisations to lessen the theft's impact.
Victim Support volunteers also work closely with the Department of Courts victim advisers to provide support for victims giving evidence at court, because this is often a traumatic and emotional experience.
The Rotorua branch of Victim Support is led by Sheryl Martin. Sheryl is supported by a small, but dedicated team of volunteers who are on call 24/7. One of them is Sonia Wilson.
Sonia is not only the longest-serving and most experienced Victim Support volunteer in New Zealand, she is also a passionate one. She impresses with her commitment, energy and empathy.
Over the years, Sonia has received awards for her commitment and skill in supporting victims, including a formal commendation from the Commissioner of Police, so we are lucky to have her.
I mention all this not only to recognise Sonia's contribution to this community, but also as an encouragement to anyone considering becoming a Victim Support volunteer. It is rewarding and you get to work alongside some passionate and competent people.
Sheryl tells me there are two great ways that people might consider helping Victim Support in our community. The first is to donate, which you can do through www.victimsupport.org.nz/. The second is to become a volunteer.
You don't have to be a trained counsellor or have a degree in the social sciences - but you do have to have empathy, be a good listener and have good problem-solving skills.
If you would like to know more about opportunities to assist Victim Support, please call Sheryl Martin on (07) 376 1246.