Salvation Army Earthquake Response in New Zealand Focuses on Food and Psychosocial Support

New Zealand – The Salvation Army in New Zealand is focusing on providing food and psychosocial support to people affected by the earthquake that devastated the Canterbury region on 22 February. Local Salvation Army staff and officers (ministers) have been joined by others from around the country.

Reinforcement personnel are boosting the psychosocial team that was already established as part of the ongoing recovery work from the September 2010 earthquake. The Salvation Army has been asked to provide up to 40 staff to accompany assessment teams (one Salvationist per team) that will travel through affected areas. Salvationists have also been asked to assess social and welfare needs.

The Salvation Army’s earthquake response team is working out of a temporary location at Sydenham Corps (church) because its buildings in Christchurch sustained significant damage. Salvation Army IT staff have arrived on site, traveling overnight from Wellington, and are setting up computer and phone networks.

Salvation Army church members in Christchurch are taking part in the feeding program. Emergency services coordinator Major Rex Cross says: ‘The Salvation Army was up and running almost instantly. We are thrilled with the local response.’ Team members at Cowles Stadium were about to start serving breakfast when engineers told them the building might be unsafe. They simply moved outside and served breakfast there.

Reports suggest that the situation in Christchurch remains chaotic. There are also concerns that needs in outer Christchurch suburbs are not well understood.

More news is emerging about an international track meet to raise funds for the earthquake response. The event – held in place of a meet that should have taken place in Christchurch – will take place at Wellington’s Newtown Park on Saturday 26 February.

‘Track Meet 4 Christchurch’ is organized by the athletes themselves and is to be run in association with the New Zealand Olympic Committee, which will present Nick Willis with his long-awaited Olympic silver medal at the beginning of the event. Nick came third in the 1,500 meters in Beijing but was promoted to second when the winner was disqualified in November 2009 after failing a drugs test.

Spectator entry to the track meet is free. However, The Salvation Army will collect donations for the Christchurch relief effort.

Nick says that in response to the events in Christchurch the athletes wanted to do something to help. ‘We hope to see at least five athletes break the magic four-minute barrier [for the mile],’ he says. ‘And we hope to get a large crowd and raise as many funds for the Christchurch people as possible.’

Donations to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal can be made online by clicking here.