Across Auckland, Citizen's Advice Bureaus are seeking volunteers. In Mt Roskill, they're really feeling the shortage. Sophie Bond reports.
Harshila Patel poses in the small waiting room at Mt Roskill Citizens Advice Bureau. The walls around her are packed floor to ceiling with a rainbow of brochures. To her left, a small, elderly man sits patiently, hands folded. In the corner, a hulking blond man with an eastern-European accent is deep in conversation with a volunteer. Two more citizens wait silently.
It's a busy morning at this bureau where Ms Patel has volunteered for almost a year. Busy, because the branch recently reduced its opening hours and now people seeking advice on everything from consumer rights to residency permits have only a small opportunity to find it.
The Mt Roskill resident is one of 16 volunteers here, a number that allows the branch to open five days a week from 9.30am to 1pm. Ms Patel hopes people will respond readily to a call for more volunteers.
"The more the merrier," she says. "People from all age groups and ethnicities are welcome to apply. If you are able to relate to people it's so rewarding and it helps the community.
"I've always been involved in voluntary work as I've been raised in a family that believes in getting involved. I heard the CAB was looking for people so I came in and got an interview."
She trained two days a week for five weeks and now volunteers one morning a week.
"We're covering a wide range of areas that affect people. They come from all walks of life with different issues such as immigration, or legal advice. Perhaps they are looking for a preschool in the area. We equip people with all the information they need or we do referrals to other agencies."
Ms Patel often speaks in Hindi and Gujarati with clients.
Claire Donaldson, the Mt Roskill bureau manager, would love to have enough volunteers to extend opening hours. She says it would be ideal to have a wide range of ages and ethnicities among the staff.
"We want our volunteers to reflect our clients as there is a high migrant population in Mt Roskill. It would be great to have people who have a second language, although, in saying that, we're just happy for volunteers."
Can you help?
If you're interested in volunteering at any of Auckland's 26 Citizens Advice Bureaus, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or ph 634 2841 for an application pack.