Diverse, skilled, social justice champions – The real deal about Citizens Advice Bureau volunteers

Do you know the Citizens Advice Bureau? Like really?

Hundreds of thousands of people around Aotearoa New Zealand know the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They know it well, because they have been helped by this long-standing, respected organisation that provides core social infrastructure and improved access to justice in communities around the motu. They know they can come to the CAB, no matter their circumstances or question and they will be responded to with care and kindness by our diverse team of CAB volunteers. Volunteers who are trained and skilled in listening, unpacking issues, and empowering people with options for moving forward.

For those who maybe don’t know us so well. Let us introduce you to our service and some of our amazing people.

The power and mana of the CAB service

Citizens Advice Bureau was started in New Zealand over 52 years ago by social workers, lawyers and activists who recognised that justice was not equally accessible to everyone. These people understood the importance of empowering communities with knowledge and understanding of their rights and responsibilities and that access to justice should not be restricted to society’s elite. It could and should be made available to all people through a model of civic participation and service – the CAB service.

This passion for social justice and service to communities continues to motivate over 2,000 people who volunteer for CABs around the motu today. “Here at CAB Helensville we have 13 volunteers dedicated to serving our local community,” says Rani Timoti, manager.

The diversity of our CAB people

Across our organisation we are diverse in gender, age, ethnicity, culture, religion, work experience, and even cardigan preferences.

“Our volunteers include many who wear different community hats in the South Kaipara area, often belonging to other groups and organisations representing their interests and areas of talent,” says Rani. “We have a young mum wanting to give back to her community, a former social worker, a former nurse and others from the educational and business world. But they all have something in common- a heart for their people. Our volunteers, at different ages and stages of life, all bring empathy and aroha to their mahi.”

Mana wahine

People tend to think of CAB volunteers as invariably being women. Some even refer to us as ‘little old ladies in comfy cardigans’. It is true that there are plenty of women in our midst – the community and voluntary sector is brimming with amazing wahine. Some of these women are in their retirement years, but reducing them to ‘little and old’ diminishes their mana.

“For myself, volunteering for the CAB was an opportunity to grab when my circumstances changed. After nearly 30 years as a community newspaper journalist and writing many articles about this ‘worthy community organisation’, I decided to become a volunteer. Seven years later, I’m now the manager.”

All of the women who contribute to their communities through the CAB are dedicated to their mahi and bring skills, expertise and empathy.

Celebrating culture and language

We celebrated diversity and multiculturalism in the Citizens Advice Bureau during this year’s https://www.cab.org.nz/news/free-information-and-advice-in-your-language/CAB Awareness Week. This included highlighting that we have over a hundred multilingual volunteers who are available to provide language support so people can access the CAB service in their own language.

Old and young, and plenty in-between

Our volunteers range in age from their early twenties through to those who have well and truly earned the right to slow down, even if they choose not to. Citizens Advice Bureau attracts amazing people, at all stages of life, who share a common motivation to support and empower others. This means CAB is an amazing environment for intergenerational, learning and support.

You are welcome

So, if you had some ‘old’ stereotypes floating around in your head, we hope that helps to set the record straight. We are, and have always been, more than you imagine us to be. Next time you see a sign for the CAB, think of the dedicated team behind it of skilled and diverse advocates, guardians and champions of human rights and positive social change. And remember, you are welcome at the CAB – whether as a client or a volunteer – regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or background. Cardigan-clad or otherwise. We’re here for everyone.

We want to reflect our South Kaipara area with our volunteers- do you think you make a good fit with our small team?

Pop on in to talk to our friendly volunteers at our office at 16 Commercial Rd, Mondays to Fridays, 10am to 1pm, email manager.helensville@cab.org.nz or phone 09 420 7162.

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