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In times of disaster people pull together

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It’s a relief to be back in my home this week and sleeping in my own bed again. I feel exceptionally lucky that my family are all safe and well and am only too aware that this is far from the case for many. In times of disaster you see the best and worst of humanity and, while the news has focused on those who have misbehaved during this time, I would like to shine a light on all those who have stepped up to help others.

I spent a bit of time at Centennial Hall last week helping with meal delivery for people who were displaced. There were a huge team of people volunteering, including the Rapid Relief Team from the Brethren Church, and all helping out with cooking, cleaning, prepping food, plating up food, etc. The first night I was at Centennial Hall they prepared and delivered an astounding 850 burgers for dinner.

I had the privilege of meeting the most amazing person, an ex-chef named Paul Revill, who worked non-stop six very long days in a row co-ordinating the kitchen and keeping everything running smoothly. He was cool, calm and collected at all times and encouraging and supportive of his team of mostly inexperienced people. If ever there was an individual that deserves some recognition I believe Paul is one of them! But he certainly wasn’t on his own and Vicky Butterworth, Jill Foley and Liz (whose last name I unfortunately don’t know) were all amazing stalwarts who oversaw Centennial Hall day after day under some very trying circumstances.

There are many other examples of people pitching in and helping out. One day delivering information flyers I got to see plenty of examples of neighbourhoods pulling together and supporting each other. This included people with generators running power cords across to multiple other houses, people offering access to hot showers, charging devices and use of wi-fi in their homes. People were sharing barbeques with others and pooling their food supplies. There was a super lovely sense of community everywhere I went. I hope we can all take this spirit into the future and connect with our neighbours and communities more regularly and keep looking out for each other.

Other, much harder hit places that I saw, such as Puketapu, had whole swarms of people delivering supplies of food and basic necessities such as clothing, nappies and other essentials. Lots of shovels and diggers were coming and going to help with the long arduous tasks of removing silt from businesses, orchards, farms, vineyards and homes. Many people, who looked simply exhausted, were soldiering on and doing all they could to help out. I know it has been a huge relief to have the military, Red Cross and other support organisations arriving here in Hawke’s Bay and so important for people to know they are not alone. There is such a daunting amount of work to be done and I can’t even begin to imagine how it feels for people in the worst hit areas and those who have lost so much. We are thinking of everyone across the region and around the country who’ve been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones or haven’t managed to resume contact and are hoping family and friends are okay.

Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper 25 February 2023 and written by Laura Vodanovich, Director at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

1 March 2023

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