As The Salvation Army responds to the earthquake and aftershocks that hit New Zealand on 4 September, spirits were buoyed on the evening of 7 September when New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited a large welfare centre at the Addington Raceway. Mr. Key took his turn serving dinner alongside the Salvation Army catering crew.

The response is now moving from initial emergency relief into a second phase. Ten counselors and social workers have been sent to Christchurch to help residents traumatized by the disaster. Salvation Army spokesman Major Robbie Ross says the Army has also secured warehousing and refrigeration facilities to step up its provision of food parcels to those in urgent need.

Salvation Army Community Ministries Secretary Ian Hutson says the counselors and social workers will be located at the emergency welfare centers at Addington and Linwood, where The Salvation Army is already working. Some may also be used to bolster social workers already working at Salvation Army Community Ministries centers. They will work in conjunction with Christchurch mental health services.

‘Some people will simply want to vent their emotions but for many the full emotional impact may not surface for weeks or months,’ Major Hutson says. The first group of counselors will be in the city for a week.

‘Once we’ve assessed the need for these services, we will know what other resources will have to be added,’ adds Major Hutson. Counselors and social workers from Salvation Army centers across New Zealand and Australia will be available if demand dictates, he says.

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army is starting to channel food and goods provided by New Zealand companies to its food banks, as demand for food and personal care products climbs. Major Ross says distribution will be through The Salvation Army’s network of Community Ministry centers.

The Salvation Army is feeding around 2,000 people a day at two Christchurch welfare centers, 400 of whom have been staying at the centers overnight. The Salvation Army is also feeding people in the outer Christchurch suburb of Rangiora.

Local emergency services coordinator Major Rex Cross says those coming to the welfare centers have been frightened and need constant reassurance for the first hour or so. Children are particularly scared and want their parents close at all times.

In setting out logistics and protocols around the provision of aid, The Salvation Army in New Zealand is utilizing expertise from the experience of the Australian Salvation Army, gained during that country’s devastating 2009 bushfires.

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