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Volunteering brings balance to busy professor

Full-time employment and a six-day a week weightlifting practice haven’t kept volunteer support worker Jennifer from dedicating two evenings a month to supporting those in need.

“I’ve learnt to be extremely efficient with my time,” says Jennifer, a University of Canterbury Professor of Statistics and silver medallist in this year’s International Weightlifting Federation’s Masters Virtual World Championships.

“I schedule my home visits for after work, then visit the gym afterwards. I call my clients from my car outside the gym, as I don’t get very good reception at home.”

Jennifer smiling

Despite her full schedule, Jennifer has never considered giving up her volunteer duties.

“My volunteer schedule has changed over the years as my work and personal commitments have evolved, but it’s always been very important to me to continue working with Victim Support.

“My field of vision can get very narrow between my job and weightlifting, and volunteering gives me balance. It lets me connect with my community and meet some truly amazing people. I don’t think I would feel like a complete person without it,” she says.

On top of the initial training she received in 2017 when she began volunteering with Victim Support, Jennifer has also completed specialised suicide, family harm and sexual violence training. She often refers back to her notes when supporting her clients, and there is always someone at Victim Support she can call if needed.

“The training Victim Support gives their volunteers is excellent, and I never feel alone. There’s always either our service coordinator or the call centre staff on the end of the phone if I have a question.”

Five years on, Jennifer still gets a bit nervous about meeting or calling a new client for the first time. But she is always humbled by the response she gets from people who can be going through some of toughest times of their lives.

“People don’t just open their doors to me, they open their lives. I’ve never had anyone tell me to ‘go away’, regardless of the pain or trauma they might be going through. I’m always blown away by just how brave they are,” Jennifer says.

“I think the moment I stop getting nervous is the moment I stop volunteering, as I think it will mean I’m not invested anymore. I don’t see that happening any time soon though!”


If you'd like to be there to help others in your community like Jennifer, we’d love to hear from you! Click here to find out more about becoming a Volunteer Support Worker.