Harriet Dixon’s role as the newly-installed manager at Cambridge Community House (CCH) takes on particular importance as the organisation braces to meet fast-growing demand.
Just days into the job, Harriet said last week that referrals to CCH counselling services have more than doubled over the last four years and there is little sign of it slowing. “We are looking at another record high again this year, having already achieved more than last year. The need for our services continues to grow in Cambridge.”
She attributed the increased demand to a combination of population growth and the rising number of people seeking help sooner. “That could be because there is more awareness around problems like mental wellness; people may feel less afraid to ask for help and might be seeking it earlier than in the past.”
Harriet has come on board just as CCH is advancing moves to combat its current space squeeze. It is busy with the tender process for the development of a new building on an additional 8m of land leased to them by the Waipa District Council at the rear of the existing site.
“We desperately need to increase our capacity,” she said. “We’re outgrowing our space; ideally, we’d like to have the new building up and running by December 2019. Part of my role in that is to handle the fundraising; we have a target of $500,000 … it’s important that we reach out in as many ways as possible to bring that money in. I can be the face of that.”
British-born Harriet comes to the job armed with an administrative skillset she developed over more than 20 years working with the market research company, Colmar Brunton; it was a company transfer to New Zealand that brought she and her husband John to New Zealand. After shifting around the country, mainly following John’s work in change management, they moved to Cambridge about a year ago, complete with sons Sam and Tom.
The move to this region was driven by Harriet’s desire to change her career from a research orientation to focus on the wellbeing of others, which she did by taking up positions at the Waikato DHB and Pinnacle MHN. When she saw the CCH manager’s position advertised, she jumped at the chance to realise her life-long ambition to run a not-for-profit organisation that helps its community.
“I love helping people, giving something back … to be able to do that through my work is a wonderful opportunity.”
Key to her role, she said, is the ability to ensure systems at the coal face are working well.
“We have a team of amazing counsellors, and this seems to be a real hub in this community, one where everyone is welcomed, and no judgement is passed. But it is important to make sure the work we do is measurable, and that the outcomes are measurable. To do that, processes need to be in place and running smoothly.”