Corporate and Public Support Help The Salvation Army in New Zealand Take Next Steps in Earthquake Response

Christchurch, New Zealand — The Salvation Army in New Zealand is taking the next steps in its reaction to the Christchurch earthquake, having concluded the concentrated visitation program that formed a major part of its initial response. The focus now is on helping people become more independent, meeting medium and long-term needs in the city.

Unemployment in the city is rising and likely to increase once government support for local businesses ends at the end of May. The Salvation Army recognizes that its recovery work needs to be long-term and sustainable.

Southern Division Commander Major Clive Nicolson says that, while residents needing material and emotional support will continue to receive help from The Salvation Army, those who are able will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own day-to-day needs.

Major Daryl Crowden is an Australian International Emergency Services officer working alongside Major Nicolson. He says a significant number of residents are still “hunkered down,” rarely leaving their homes. He points out that apart from making people more self-reliant, encouraging them to take greater responsibility for themselves is beneficial to their mental health. “We’re trying to get them to see beyond their four walls and put their situation in context,” says Major Crowden.

Some residents are exhibiting significant degrees of frustration and anger as they await answers about the future of their properties. Major Crowden says that while these emotions are an expected part of the recovery process, Salvation Army workers are often the ones faced with the difficult task of providing emotional support and helping people put their bureaucratic problems into context.

As from this week, the number of psychosocial workers providing emotional and practical support to quake-affected residents in the city has reduced from around 100 to 25.

For the first time The Salvation Army has permission to send a team of eight psychosocial workers into the orange zone of the central business district (CBD) to check on residents allowed to move back into their homes. The orange zone has been off limits since the quake and it will be the first time that many of these residents have received comprehensive support.

Demand on Salvation Army Community Ministries is gradually diminishing, with food parcel distribution down to around 200 a day, compared to 800 in the days following the quake. Salvation Army Emergency Services were serving up to 970 meals a day until the end of last week but are now only feeding those engaged in The Salvation Army’s earthquake response. Most of the content of food parcels is provided directly by corporate donations.

Salvation Army Public Relations Secretary Major Robbie Ross says companies looking to support the Army’s work in Christchurch continue to make contact. Some are also showing interest in supporting The Salvation Army’s wider community work.

The New Zealand Food and Grocery Council has canvassed its members on behalf of The Salvation Army with astounding results, says Major Ross. Kellogg’s, for instance, has been providing weekly shipments of breakfast cereals since the February earthquake. In addition, NZ$160,000-worth of grocery vouchers has been purchased from Progressive Enterprises at discount. The company is also providing expertise in organizing The Salvation Army’s recently acquired storage facility.

Where possible The Salvation Army is providing vouchers rather than food parcels or other items. This is to stimulate the fragile local economy. Companies such as Chevron and Mitre 10 have donated funds for vouchers. Some other assistance is coming through partnership projects, such as clothing vouchers with Postie Plus and NZ$500 Care Cards developed in conjunction with Westpac Bank.

The Salvation Amy has distributed more than 1,250 Care Cards and provided around 300 Care Breaks to individuals and families to help them get respite away from Christchurch.

The Army is currently having three purpose-built shower units manufactured in China. The showers will be capable of providing up to 400 people with showers each day. With colder weather and continuing problems with water and waste-water infrastructure in Christchurch, the arrival of the shower units is expected to be welcomed by residents.

A community care van donated by Westpac Bank and fitted out as a mobile office is being used in areas where there is no Salvation Army presence. The van goes to neighborhoods or other locations where residents congregate so that Salvation Army personnel can provide advice and material or psychosocial support. This service is followed up with more intensive help if needed. Two four-wheel-drive vehicles donated by Isuzu New Zealand are being used to ferry food and other items to residents in areas where the roads are still severely damaged.

The Salvation Army is pleased with the response to its Earthquake Appeal and is working with other major appeals to ensure that donated monies are targeted to the areas of greatest need.

Major Nicolson says the morale of Salvation Army officers, staff and volunteers remains high – even among locals who have damaged or destroyed properties. “In these difficult times,” he says, “I feel very privileged to be part of an organization that cares for people and endeavors to make a difference.”

For photographs of relief efforts, please click the following link:

Report by Jon Hoyle
Media Officer
New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory