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Just being there is often all it takes

Just being there is often all it takes

Image of Manaaki Tāngata Victim Support volunteer Jo Gundersen

Jo Gundersen, a volunteer in the Wairarapa, admits to stumbling onto Victim Support when one of the first friends she had coffee with after the Covid restrictions started to lift was a Victim Support volunteer who talked to her about what the work involved.

“I’d lost my hubby to cancer in February 2020, just prior to the first Covid lockdown”, says Jo “and I knew I needed to do something with and for people to try to fill the large void losing him had left in my life.

"I thought maybe being a Victim Support volunteer was something I could do, so I made contact with our Wairarapa co-ordinator, Gwen.”

And the rest, as they say, is history with Jo passing her training course and becoming an active volunteer within her Wairarapa community and further afield. A recent memorable moment was speaking to one of the victims of the Loafers Lodge fire in Wellington who had lost everything in the blaze. “The only belongings he had when he escaped were his wallet and phone and the clothes he was wearing. He was so grateful that we had made contact. When I texted him later to let him know that a grant had been approved for him, I received the following reply by text, ‘Thank you very much Jo’. That really made my day.”

The work still comes with its challenges for Jo. “I still get really nervous making first contact with victims, but I now know I don't need to know everything. Just listening and being there is often all that is important at the start. I’m really lucky as Gwen and the Wairarapa team are very knowledgeable and always supportive, and Victim Support have really good information available for us to use.”

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