THE EAST CHRISTCHURCH SITUATION 7 March 2011
I am helping out in Aranui/Wainoni and Bexley areas. The contrast in these areas is pretty horrifying. I live in North New Brighton. Many residents in my area don’t have power and water, but the streets are clean and though I know it’s a struggle for some, it’s nothing like the crisis going on there.
The bad news
There are very very few portaloos for an incredibly high density area. There are lots of Samoan families there who don’t really know how to get help, who are living in damaged houses, have been refused grants from Winz etc.
The streets are still covered in mud and silt that in a nor west blows around like toxic dust. The community centres and Salvation Army hall have no power.
The good news
Maori Wardens have come from all over the country, have divided the area up into 10 zones and are out walking the streets visiting every house, bringing food and water, checking people’s health, collecting contact information and making referrals where needed. They cover a zone a day and then go back and start again. They will be followed up by a bunch of Maori nurses who are starting tomorrow.
The women from the Aranui Community Trust have been working night and day to provide support, starting with dishing out food and water the first few days before systems were in place, and then moving on to advocacy, jumping up and down to get a welfare processing centre set up in their area. Before this people were expected to travel to New Brighton to try to get hardship grants. (With no busses on impassable roads) Now there are two welfare places where people can get help, one at Nga Hau E Wha on Pages Road, and the Wainoni Hall on Hampshire Street. There is also a centre at Aranui Primary School where people can get food packages.
The Salvation Army have a contract with a caterer and are feeding the Maori Wardens. They are also happy to provide up to 100 hot meals for vulnerable people in the community. The food comes from the city and just gets served there. We have been delivering the food to those that can’t get in to eat it or collect it there.
There has been an inpouring of support from outside the community. The good folk of Rangiora banded together to form Rangiora Express. They started by helicopter and have now moved to vans, and have been bringing in tons of food, water etc. There have also been heaps of other random individuals turning up with donations of stuff. Coordination has been an issue.
I would like help to support these people. There are a few key areas where we’ve been asked for help.
1. Advocacy/problem solving etc. We need a bunch of people with good personal resource to support people through the application process to Winz and Red Cross. We also need people willing to turn up and help someone deal with the fact that rain is pouring in through their roof, they have five children, no money, don’t speak English very well and don’t know who to call. (as happened today.)
2. Meals. The chief Maori Warden agrees with me that a midday hot meal would be much easier to deal with then a hot dinner. If the caterers agree, then we would need 5 volunteers a day. 2 to serve at the Salvation Army. 2 to take the bulk of the deliveries. (One navigating and delivering, the other driving.) and one to take the three or four deliveries outside the area, referred by the community constable, in Dallington, Queenspark etc.
3. Food and supplies for the Maori Wardens to deliver. The funding for the food they have been distributing has run out. They would like to take out home baking, ice cream containers with healthy snacks, water bottles etc. to the houses they visit. It would be fantastic if we could support these incredibly hard working people this way.
4. Baking for a nice treat for pudding to go with the meals.
5. Taking any donations directly to Aranui Primary School and volunteering there, helping to distribute food packages etc. That job could also be combined with advocacy. (1)
We are taking a break from giving out meals for Monday and Tuesday and hoping to resume on Wednesday. I am also looking for someone to act as a coordinator while I am away, because I am heading up to the North Island to Womad. We have made a spreadsheet that makes it pretty easy to coordinate. Ideally the coordinator would be very well organised, understand how to use filters, sort etc. and would keep updating the data. We also need to keep the Maori Wardens, community nurses etc. up to date with any issues we see that need immediate resolution.
So, if anyone would like to join me in this project, the rewards are great. People here are poor in money, but they know how to reach out to each other in a beautiful way. It’s a chance to give something practical and tangible and get to interact with a group of people you may have previously had little contact with.