Community made real in action and songResponding to New Brighton locals has opened a new ministry for CWS’s youth and schools coordinator Katrina Hill. Working with her local parish, the typical church hall belonging to St Faith’s Anglican has been transformed into a must-go destination. The New Brighton Recovery Assistance Centre’s (RAC) is a place of practical help and magic.
Concern for each individual is paramount, made obvious by the warm greeting from all involved – even the man lighting his cigarette as he quietly leaves the building. The common bond of those living in a disaster zone has made this place a gathering point where service is offered and received by government officials, support services, the parish and the locals. People come for welfare grants, with housing and food needs, support, and vital questions about things most basic.
No water and failing toilets in the area, presented compost toilet enthusiasts the opportunity to offer a working example and practical advice at the RAC. Once the City Council started distributing chemical toilets, new problems emerged. For older and less able residents, the toilets (essentially fancy buckets) proved impossible to manage. Research proved that they were the same height as ordinary toilets, but were difficult to manoeuvre. Hearing that chairs cost only $1 at Bromley’s Super Shed, Katrina despatched husband Jeff to investigate. He came back with six that he modified to hold the toilet and give people the leverage they need to get up when they have finished their business. Jeff has also helped with disposal as not everyone can empty a full bucket into the Council’s chest high disposal containers.
Katrina is enthusiastic about the way everyone is working together. “We were really inclusive from the beginning. The group from the government have been really good. People who haven’t worked together before are working to meet people’s needs. People really try to help,” she says.
Represented at the RAC are: Work and Income’s Earthquake Response Team, Inland Revenue, Housing New Zealand, the City Council, Community Law and Relationship Services. Until the end of last week Red Cross was also on site as was Stronger Canterbury. Information, free internet access and often food are available. Local residents have joined the parish on the roster of volunteers to welcome and assist people. They are experts on where to get what and send out reconnaissance missions to check out changing conditions and services available. Churches and community groups are contributing food and expertise like building, electrical and plumbing assistance.
Katrina is concerned about more than the practical needs. When people leave, they are asked if they got what they want and offered a hot drink and a listening ear. Wednesday’s community lunch is also growing in importance, as people gather to work out what next and to find ways to make sure the community voice is heard.
The magic is the human encounter which makes it something more than a place for hand outs and filing forms. This community can be found when a woman ending her time with a counsellor asks if she can play the piano. She sits down to sing her own song about treasuring her heart. Leaving she reaches out to the young man who has made the RAC his day time home as he struggles with his future. “Do you have family?” she says to him. When he breaks down the counsellor steps in, and Katrina leaves for a break confident that the community will look after each other. For her this is a new Christchurch grown model of partnership that parallels the work of many of CWS partners in places where the need is so great.
18 April 2011