Brenda – Board Member, Chairperson

Brenda is the Chairperson of the CRS Board, having taken on the position in 2020. Brenda’s role is to coordinate the monthly Board meetings, with her main role being that of governance.

Prior to her involvement with CRS, Brenda has worked as a mental health social worker, with a career spanning 40 years. She was involved with a small team that served people with refugee and migrant backgrounds. Part of this role was providing mental health support to refugees and asylum seekers at the Mangere Resettlement Service in Auckland. Brenda worked closely with CRS social workers and staff during this time, with refugees and collaborative service and has built expertise about refugee and migrant needs and service delivery over these 30 years. “It is a privilege to now be involved as a Board Member,” Brenda says.

Highlights for Brenda include being able to work with an organisation that has clear policies and excellent leadership.

“The highlight is the staff – made up of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse roles and skills. They have responded to some really difficult situations, the agency and the staff have been able to adjust and respond with flexibility.”

The ongoing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic has proved a challenge that CRS has been able to adapt to. “When we had Omicron, staff were working from home, seeing families face-to-face if there are safety issues. We were able to employ a Community Connector to help families get their welfare needs met during self-isolation.”

On the subject of the March 15th attacks, Brenda says, “It’s affected everyone in Christchurch.” She is impressed by how the team at CRS has responded and provided support to the Muslim community and how they continue to do so. “CRS was able to respond and employ a small mental health team that is integrated into the service and can respond to the anxiety and grief, as well as provide support for processes such as the coronial enquiry.”

In terms of challenges, Brenda says, “I never realised until I took over this role about the finances and the number of contracts and keeping track of those. For the organisation it’s challenging. We’ve been fortunate in having a General Manager who is dedicated and who has good relationships and understanding of the funding pathways.” “It has been a privilege understanding the work that the staff are doing. Their humility and skill in working with the nitty gritty of a family coming into our city and experiencing cultural shock. Family members are often not able to speak or write English and come from traumatic backgrounds. Families and staff work together on what is needed to meet physical, psychological, social and cultural needs.”