Lagi Tuimavave volunteers for Community Law of Wellington and Hutt Valley. She studies Law at Victoria University of Wellington.
What do you like most about volunteering for Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley?
I volunteer in the Wellington office and what I love most is being able to give back to people in the community and providing a service that makes a difference in their lives.
The client is the center of attention and the central focus is on alleviating the pressures they are under by helping them with the tools that I have. Sometimes the advice might not necessarily be a legal one, it can be a practical one. It is really rewarding when our clients pour their hearts out with gratitude because of the time and free service we’ve given them. but unbeknownst to them, it is those sentiments that drives our passion to be volunteers.What does a typical day as volunteer at Community Law look like?
I volunteer on Thursday nights which is Māori Kaupapa Night. If I am the shift leader I turn up at 5 p.m. and prepare sign up sheets because we usually get a significant amount of clients. I greet our clients on their way in and explain to them what they have to do with the sheet. They fill it in and return it to me at the desk. I ensure that I conflict check everything to prevent giving advice to both parties to a dispute. It is on a first-in first-served basis.
As I am a student volunteer and a lawyer in training, I have a great mentor to assist me when giving legal advice. Before heading into the interviewing room, I always introduce myself and my mentor to the client because it is important to make that connection immediately. We then head into the room, hear the issues and give advice. There’s always three lawyers and two student volunteers during the night plus a supervisor, so among us, we try and see all the clients. Most of us leave at just before 7.30 p.m.
What is one of your proudest moments as a volunteer?
I am full Samoan and when we get clients of Pacific Island descent, it is easier for me to identify nerves and reservations among them. I would completely understand if I was in their position because getting free legal advice is unheard of. However I use my identity and language to build rapport and connect with all our clients (not exclusive to Pacific Islanders) because I understand what it is like to be in a disadvantaged position and in need of help. It’s incredible to see the contrast in people when you brief them about confidentiality and how often they can return to get more free legal advice. I love the fact that there is so much diversity in our clients coupled with the fact that our volunteers have the best interests of our clients at heart.