With International Volunteer Day (IVD2018) coming up on 5 December, we’ve asked some organisations to share how their volunteers help build resilient communities, which is the theme of IVD 2018. Here we talk to Donna Smith from Victim Support about their volunteers and the incredible impact they’re having on their communities.

1. Can you talk a bit about your role? How are you involved with volunteers?

I am employed as the Service Coordinator for Victim Support Tasman Hub. This covers from Golden Bay through to just this side of Kaikoura and inland to Murchison. The Top of the South. I manage the Volunteer Support Workers. I recruit, train, debrief and supervise their work. I manage our database and do all the liaising required to have a time effective referral service. I work closely with Police to ensure that victims are receiving the right support at the right time. I make sure our Support Workers have the appropriate resources to help victims in their journey after a traumatic event.

2. What do the volunteers at Victim Support do?

Our Support Workers are trained to assist victims at the point of the incident and walk the journey with them during their healing. Our workers are rostered and prepared to respond to a callout within 45 mins of the call from Police coming through. They will attend where they are needed, no matter what time of day or night it is. They then follow up with that victim or victims to ensure that they have the information that is necessary to make informed choices on their journey. They will attend court hearings with them, guide them through writing Victim Impact Statements and Parole Submissions. They listen and empower with appropriate advice. They will refer to other agencies that may be beneficial to the person in their time of need. They are non-judgemental and are prepared to just be there if that is what the victim needs. They will advocate for them where necessary and keep themselves informed of what agencies or information is available in the community.

3. How do your volunteers help build resilient communities?

Our volunteers build resilient communities by being available and being ready to step up to show that people do care, no matter what the situation is. They volunteer their time and energy. They do this with no expectations of reward or reparation. What our volunteers get out of their roles is the satisfaction of knowing they made a difference. Sometimes it is a small thing that means the world to someone else. Sometimes it’s a long journey. Victims need to know that we won’t give up on them and we will be there at their side until they are strong enough to move forward on their own. Our volunteers try to ensure that victims feel empowered to be part of the justice process. They help them to reconnect to the community and be engaged members of their community.

4. Can you share a story about one of your volunteers?

We were called to support an elderly couple who had been receiving harassing phones call at all times of the day and night. The volunteer Support Worker visited with the couple and listened to how these events were affecting them. The worker talked about what Victim Support does, offered some advice about how they might mitigate the calls, and offered to make contact with some other agencies in the community that might be able to assist as well. Contact was made with another agency that were receiving an increasing number of referrals for this type of occurrence. Calls were made to some contacts around the country and it was discovered that there might be an answer in some new technology that was being tried in another country. They then asked if the couple would like to try this technology as part of a trial here in New Zealand. They were keen for something to assist and took part. The new technology worked and they were over the moon about it. This is now an option for some people to help them if they same thing happens. The couple were very grateful that Victim Support had taken what was happening for them seriously and had put them on a journey where they felt relaxed and comfortable in their own home again.

5.  How different would our communities be without Victim Support volunteers?

Victim Support is a free 24/7 community response for people dealing with, in some cases, the worst time of their life. People who receive adequate support and information from our volunteer Support Workers are more likely to remain connected in a positive way with their whānau, family and local community and are better placed to rebuild their lives.
Victim Support volunteers make an essential contribution to the wellbeing of our communities. Volunteers, and the staff who support them, are at the heart of Victim Support’s work. It is widely accepted that victims of crime who are not provided adequate support in the immediate aftermath are at greater risk of experiencing things such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and repeat victimisation. Our volunteers are there for those who need us, when they need us and for how long they need us.

Thank you Donna for providing a valuable insight into the important work of Victim Support volunteers.



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