EMPOWER Pacific may not be a familiar name to many but in the Western Division, the organisation has played a pivotal role in improving circumstances and changing lives for close to two decades.
Last year alone, the organisation helped close to 20,000 people and chief executive officer Rhianon Vichta said this figure was expected to significantly increase this year.
The non-governmental organisation first opened its doors under the stewardship of Joanne Cohen 18 years ago as the Family Support and Education Group and has assisted tens of thousands of people around the country.
Ms Vichta said from humble beginnings with a staff of a handful of volunteers, the organisation has grown to a team of 70 professionals with five branches around the country.
“Joanne set up shop with just a few volunteers and a small caravan and started providing free counselling to the community. By the time I personally met Joanne and her team in 2006, the service had grown to eight staff and moved to a two-room office kindly loaned by the Ministry of Health. I worked with the group for two years and by the time I left, we had become a team of 30 counsellors and just opened our second branch in Nadi,” she said. When the organisation changed name in 2007 to Pacific Counselling and Social Services, Ms Rhianon said work was concentrated on holistic counselling, HIV and social work programs and training counsellors and HIV practitioners from all around the Pacific. Last week the organisation launched its new name Empower Pacific.
Ms Vichta said while the organisation’s name had changed, what remained the same and was constantly being strengthened was Empower Pacific’s dedication to clients and community service.