Bolstering the pandemic fallout and ensuring the community knows where to find help are at the forefront of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Byrne’s mind as she settles into her new job as manager at Cambridge Community House’s (CCH).
“I think the emphasis has to be two-fold,” she said. “One is to ensure staff here are well supported at this stage of the pandemic. They have been doing a great job in difficult circumstances. They’re well-qualified, responsible, caring and kind… I want to make sure they are supported through the challenges ahead.
“Second is to ensure the community knows that even in these confusing times, as levels keep changing, they can access help. People need to know we are here and can help with whatever problems they may be experiencing. The pandemic has seen people come in who have never had to put up their hand to ask for help. It can be daunting.
It is important for them to know they are safe here … they won’t be judged.”
Gabby knows all too well the effects the pandemic can have on staff and the community they serve. Most recently, she worked as health promotion team manager with the Waikato DHB’s Public Health Unit.
She started just before Covid hit and almost immediately swung into a co-ordinated pandemic response that she said her team handled brilliantly.
“You bring every bit of expertise and knowledge into a role like that, and together with others, form a tight team that gets the job done,” she said, suggesting the same would apply at CCH. She certainly has the chops for it.
Gabby is familiar with Cambridge and its many social services and groups. She came to the town 21 years ago after returning from the UK where she had worked for the National Autistic Association and then as a trainer in an aged care facility. Both jobs made good use of her combined tertiary qualifications which include a degree in psychology and post graduate qualifications in human nutrition and special education.
While her boys attended Cambridge’s St Peter’s Catholic School, Gabby worked there as a teacher aide and served on the PTA, all the while running community exercise classes through Sport Waikato.
Once the boys moved to high school, she shifted full-time to Sport Waikato and spent almost nine years managing their Active and Well programme across Waipā.
The sweep of experience has given her a solid understanding of local needs, and the range of groups on hand to help. She gets why a well-supported team is critical, particularly during a pandemic, and knows how that need grows in tough times like these.
Gabby had looked at the CCH leadership role once before, but the time wasn’t right.
“Now it is,” she said. “I have my mum living with me now, so to work locally seemed a natural fit.”
Cambridge Community House Trust chair Carolyn Casey said the Board was ‘super happy’ to have Gabby join them, particularly as the workload continues to increase.