Jill of all trades is not crazy after all
By DAVID MOASE
FOR psychologist Chris Boris, volunteering is not just a choice, it's a belief.
She sees pro bono work as something that all professionals should do as a way to helping people who have not been as fortunate in life.
It was why she started a counselling and support service at The Neighbourhood House at Boambee four years ago, and why she is thrilled to have seen that service expand to include a total of eight voluntary counsellors.
"For me it is a very political thing," Ms Boris said.
"We've got a lot of privileged people about and it's a very middle class thing giving time for people who need it ? your working class and your underclass ? because there is no way they'd be getting it otherwise. There's a real social justice component."
While she is now in a position to help those less well off, it was not that long ago that Ms Boris was struggling herself.
"I left home at 15, school at 16 and did lots of crappy jobs ? a Jill of all trades," she said. After going to school at Woolgoolga and Jetty high schools, she soon left for the bright lights of Surry Hills in Sydney.
"I was a troubled teenager.
"Luckily, when I was still a teenager I must have realised this is no good, living hand to mouth, so I bought into the dream that if you got an education you'd be OK."
While working as a teacher's aid, Ms Boris trained in psychology as a mature-aged student and after graduating began her volunteer work at The Neighbourhood House.
It was soon obvious there was an overwhelming need for the counselling service.
"The first client day was full," she said.
"The geographical area here suggests that this suburb is poor, but in saying that you've also got quite a lot of people who come from Coffs Harbour.
"Basically you are looking at people who might have a history of surviving ... as well as having issues of poverty and structural abuse, and have been pushed around by government departments."
The recent expansion of the service has proved equally successful, with the extra counsellors now also booked up.
"We provide a whole lot of functions," Ms Boris said.
"There are the people who come in for just one consultation and they've got all this stuff and have a talk to you and then they say 'Oh thanks, I'm not crazy after all' ? that's about 30 per cent of people.
"Others may need a couple of sessions to get their heads around stuff. Some people come more. I can think of one lady who came monthly for about a year and for the first six months I don't think she knew why she was coming."
The Neighbourhood House counselling and support service can be contacted on 6658 4655.