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Its free and confidential services can help in matters arising from climatic, environmental or financial issues, issues in human resources, relationships and personal circumstances, or if people find themselves in an overwhelming situation.
RST Mid Canterbury community welfare committee chairman Paul ‘‘Pup’’ Chamberlain is one of the new faces at the trust, which under its new strategic structure has been set up into five areas: RST trustees, administration, response and recovery committee, welfare committee and liaison.
The RST trustees will deal with governance; the welfare committee will include community welfare and Mycoplasma bovis; and liaison will include staff from Ministry for Primary Industries, Civil Defence and other stakeholders as required.
‘‘A strong association with Lives Worth Living at Safer Mid Canterbury now means a specific specialist targeting of our local Mid Canterbury community ... we can develop programmes and support that work for our rural people to make sure we are being effective at the [coal face].’’
Mr Chamberlain said this support also extended to RST’s frontline workers.
‘‘These people are constantly dealing with issues that require understanding, confidentiality and dedicated attention. It is important that our committee protects them so that they can continue with this vital work in 2020.’’
Among those people are RST Mid Canterbury manager/rural connector Judy Skevington and M. bovis welfare co-ordinator Frances Beeston.
Mrs Skevington monitors the free and confidential 0800 phone line (0800787-254), which is available 24/7. The trust can also be contacted by Messenger through Facebook, and via the RST website.
Mrs Skevington answers calls and works with the caller to decide on the best action to take.
‘‘Sometimes that is to refer them to other professional services in the community,’’ she said.
‘‘Often all the person calling needs is for someone to listen so they are able to unload what is going on in their life. This is a free confidential service.’’
Mrs Skevington, who hails from a farming background and owns a cropping farm run in partnership with her son, is able to draw on a variety of life experiences in her role.
She has also organised motivational speakers to the district such as Resilient Farmer author Doug Avery and wellbeing and resilience coach Lance Burdett, who will return in March.
Ms Beeston says many Mid Canterbury farmers have battled or are still battling against M. bovis on their properties.
‘‘With this district being one the worst affected in the country, we will all know someone affected in some shape or form. This becomes another part of our farmers’ environment by default adding additional stress/strain,’’ she says.
‘‘Our M. bovis support team is here to help you navigate through the process — whatever that may look like to you.’’
She said trained facilitators, including local rural people with a wide range of experience and knowledge, had specific training on the M. bovis programme and its processes.
‘‘We are more than a confidential listening ear to concerns and issues. We are independent support: we can help with attending meetings, taking minutes, able to connect you with relevant people to attain answers in specific areas.’’
There was also a peer support section where farmers who had been through the process were able to assist new farmers in the programme.
‘‘We have access to counselling services and providing wraparound support to you, your family and your farming team.’’
Ms Beeston said depending on a farm operation, M. bovis eradication could be a lengthy process.
‘‘Rural Support Trust offers support throughout and we have the ability to help progress or move things along if they get held up.
‘‘We can help you navigate your way out of the storm.’’
Mr Chamberlain said this year the welfare team would be rolling out some positive initiatives.
‘‘We are totally committed to assisting with what we see as our people. Any approach by the rural community will be treated with respect and confidentiality,’’ he said.
‘‘The utmost effort will be given to assist where able. Remember as a community we are like a family. We will have our disputes but from time to time we need support from each other. That is simply what good families do.’’