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As a victim support worker, Deborah Du Toit is one of those ordinary people who make an extraordinary difference.

Deborah (left) has given strength to people during some of the most difficult times in recent history: the Christchurch terror attacks, the Whakaari/White Island eruption, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every day, Deborah adds to her wealth of knowledge by learning about different victim experiences. She has also recently completed the NZ Diploma in Health and Wellbeing, with support from her employer, Victim Support, and industry training organisation Careerforce.

South African-born Deborah is no stranger to helping others. She and her husband were involved in social uplift programmes back in Cape Town. In New Zealand, she dedicated her spare time to volunteering for many years before joining Victim Support full-time two years ago.

“At Victim Support, we come alongside people who are victims of crime and trauma and walk the journey of recovery with them,” says Deborah.

“The journey is a process which includes crisis support, rebuilding and empowerment and then advocacy and promotion of self. At the end of the journey, hopefully people feel they have gained control.

“It is very rewarding coming into people’s darkest moments and just helping them gain control. For people who are victims of crime, it might be the first time they have experienced this kind of incident and they just don’t know what to do.”

The Auckland-based support worker put her hand up to travel to Christchurch shortly after the March 2019 terror attacks. She also helped following the White Island eruption of December 2019, and with families during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Remembering self-care is essential for people in Deborah’s role. “Victim Support has specific guidelines which means I do an hour of clinical supervision every month. I am also incredibly lucky to have a supportive family and I enjoy singing, also very helpful for self-care.”

It was Deborah’s employer, Victim Support, who encouraged her to enrol in the NZ Diploma in Health and Wellbeing Level 5 with Careerforce. “They gave me the opportunity and paid for the qualification which was quite a humbling experience for me.”

“This qualification has been just so informative for me. The content has been awesome. The biggest thing was coming face to face with how Victim Support has been positioned in New Zealand as an organisation in the sector of health and wellbeing.”

The Careerforce supported and workplace based Diploma consists of six learning and assessment modules, and is designed to qualify advanced support workers who work closely and collaboratively to support people with complex needs.

Deborah was teamed up with Careerforce Assessor Margaret-Anne Cole (Mac), who  provided not only assessment support but also valuable pastoral care throughout the training journey.

“I just absorbed everything. I didn’t realise that the journey was going to be so wonderful in terms of engaging with the sector and how much input I would receive from an assessor and how on many occasions I was challenged to think more and to explain more.

“There were times when I was very busy with my job and travelling with my singing and choir and at times, I became anxious. Through those times, Mac just encouraged me to remain focused and takes things in my stride. I liked that I had an assessor who could guide me through those patches when I became anxious.

“I took something away from every one of the modules. What really stood out and helped me was the critical thinking module. I had to make an argument for the tools that we use at Victim Support e.g. for crisis support we use tools for psychological first aid. I had to explain these tools, how and why they work and so on.

“In my job there are occasions where individuals come in and shadow me and I become their mentor or buddy. Talking about using those tools and what I do helped me articulate that to new people coming into the organisation. That was just key for me, it was a big help.”

Having now completed her qualification, Deborah may deserve a well-earned rest from study. “Things are always changing, aren’t they? she says. “And we have to remain informed. So I am going to rest, but not for long.

“Having done this qualification has of course been very instrumental for the job I do, but it has also helped me in other areas of my life when I think about it. So a lot of the issues that were discussed throughout the modules were of course specific to my job, but you can also take those principles and things and apply to those to your own life.”

Contact Careerforce for more information about the New Zealand Diploma in Health and Wellbeing Level 5.

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