ChatBus provides a frontline, early intervention counselling service to children up to 14 years old in the Otago region. This service helps to provide a voice, build life skills and support children to reach their potential.

Funding the Sutherland Self Help Trust went towards the purchase of a new desperately needed mobile counselling unit allowing Chatbus to reach more children in need. 

The new Chatbus will service five schools in the Dunedin area, with another 8 schools on the wait list and demand increasing every year.  Schools repost how invaluable it is to have a professional counsellor on site at school. Once set up in a school, the counsellor becomes part of the school community and the children treat the counsellor as one of their school family.

Examples include children like James, who has a police alarm in his house and lives in fear that it will need to be used. He and his siblings are traumatised by the events of violence and James struggled at school to focus on learning and to stay calm in the playground. Other children rejected him because of his violent behaviour, and adults labelled him as ‘naughty’ and ‘screwed up’, not knowing James was in ‘survival mode’ and he could not control his reaction until he was safe. James didn’t want to be in trouble, he just wanted to be safe and happy.

ChatBus provided a safe place to talk about this feelings and to learn some coping mechanisms. James confided in ChatBus’s counsellor and said things like “You really understand me. I wish my Mum was like you”. As a result of this relationship, James has been able to process some of his trauma, make sense of his world and by using some of the coping mechanisms, learnt to identify triggers and to work to avoid them.

Another example is one of children’s behaviour toward each other in school. Eight year old Lily told a ChatBus counsellor that she now felt much safer in class, since Liam has stopped throwing desks and making everyone leave the classroom. Liam is a child who experienced trauma and when challenged, his trauma is triggered and his immediate response was to turn over all the desks in the classroom. The protocol for teachers in this type of situation is to remove all other children from the classroom. Lily said she was always worried that Liam would destroy her belongings and schoolwork while the children were removed from the classroom. ChatBus counsellors worked with Liam to identify the origins of his trauma and work with him to provide coping mechanisms when he was triggered.

*All children’s names have been changed to protect privacy.

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