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Thursday, 26 March 2020
Citizen's Advice Bureau supporting community
If you have questions on just about anything, chances are Christchurch's Citizen's Advice Bureau can help.
Its manager Mollie Howarth leads a team of about 100 people who she said offer advice on from things as small as how to cook a chicken, to much bigger issues like how to deal with the effects of COVID-19.
Said Mrs Howarth: "Our volunteers are trained to interview clients and find out what is at the heart on an issue.
"It can be from anything as silly as how long do I cook a chicken, right through to my wife up north has a new boyfriend, I don't know what to do?
"They research that information, then go back to the client and explain it in a way that the client can get the information and feel empowered to do something about their situation," she said.
The 51-year-old Hornby resident, who has worked for the bureau for 12 years said the bureau helps people who need advice on things such as consumer issues, tenancy problems, family and relationships and employment matters.
Mrs Howarth said its volunteers are working hard to support people through the COVID-19 pandemic. She said times like these show the value of the bureau for keeping Christchurch residents informed and connected, even from a distance.
"I think the COVID-19 is creating a lot of anxiety in our community and a lot of people are feeling whipped up and worried.
"I guess this is the time where we really lean back into the support systems and structures that we have available," she said.
She said at right now it is about "just taking each day at a time and just putting one foot in front of the other."
Mrs Howarth said in spite of the bureau's volunteers no longer meeting with people face to face due to the current health crisis, they can still be reached by phone, email and through an online chat.
"We're planning on keeping our service available to people for as long as possible. That's the aim because we don't want people to suffer because they don't understand what's available to them," she said.
Mrs Howarth said the advice and support the bureau offers would not be possible without its volunteers.
"Our volunteers are the ones that do that front line service because our organisation is built on not only supporting our clients with impartial, confidential, free information, but it's also built on volunteerism.
"It's about using the resources of people who are freely giving their time."
Mrs Howarth's job is often stressful but she receives great support from her husband Mike Howarth.
"He's [Mike's] very good.
"When you are part of a community organisation, it's just not you that works for the organisation. If you're like me, when you need practical help and support, the old partner gets roped in to help you with the odd thing from time to time," she said.
Her dogs Scout and Bella are also supportive.
"One of the things that actually gives me my moments of peace in this chaos is actually coming home to them [the dogs] because they don't judge me.
"Sometimes just actually going with them for a walk or giving them both a jolly good pat when I get home, I know it sounds daft, but that's one of the things that does provide a lot of mental relief for me," said Mrs Howarth.
If you need advice, you can contact the Citizen's Advice Bureau at:
Ph: 0800 367 222
Online chat: https://www.cab.org.nz/