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Volunteers help community cope after New Zealand earthquake

4 March 2011

Ten days after the Christchurch earthquake, New Zealand Red Cross volunteers are helping their community cope with the devastation.

Despite strong aftershocks which continue to damage infrastructure and hamper recovery efforts, volunteers are going door to door in the city’s eastern suburbs to check the welfare of residents.

The teams have found several people living in precarious situations. On Sunday, they discovered a 19-year-old woman and her toddler son living in their car in their driveway. They couldn’t stay in their house, as it was flooded with silt and badly damaged. They did not even have enough petrol to get to a petrol station. The Red Cross filled their car up with petrol so they could drive to a welfare centre, where they are now being looked after.

Dazed and traumatised

Red Cross workers delivering relief goods in Christchurch© InfoNational programme manager David Neal tells the story of an 80-year-old woman found sitting on the floor of her living room. “She was traumatised and in a daze, not knowing what to do,” he said. Red Cross volunteers took her to a welfare centre, where she is being cared for. 

“The scale and level of need in the suburban area is significant,” David continued. “There are many people who need help.”

Volunteers are also looking after around 500 people in welfare centres, registering details of survivors on a database so their families can easily find them, and helping international search and rescue teams with the recovery effort.

The British Red Cross has launched the New Zealand Earthquake Appeal so people in the UK can help Christchurch recover.  Sir John Hansen, chair of the New Zealand Red Cross Canterbury Earthquake Commission, said: “Cash is going to be vital in helping people rebuild their homes and lives. It will enable them to buy what they need most and these purchases will help revitalize local economies.”

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