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Correspondence: Kiwis come together after earthquake
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Correspondence: Kiwis come together after earthquake

Young people, as well as professionals, have offered their support and assistance to the victims of the New Zealand earthquake, reports Alisha Lewis, a 19-year-old student from Auckland.

As Canterbury reels from the after effects (and continuing aftershocks) of last week’s devastating earthquake, people around New Zealand have swung into action.

Aside from contacting the government helpline, aid from the wider community is being organised online through various websites and social networking sites. There’s even a Facebook page simply titled ‘Get ideas together, how can the outside communities in New Zealand help?’

It’s obvious there’s a huge desire to help out our comrades in Christchurch, but what’s actually being done?

Air New Zealand is offering flights in and out of Christchurch for just $50. It’s a brilliant idea, but what happens to all those displaced Cantabrians fleeing the area?

A popular Facebook page ‘Accommodation for earthquake stricken Cantabrians’ (which already has over 4,000 ‘likes’), along with a host of other websites, is providing people with the space to offer free accommodation around the country.

Trademe has also opened its website to advertisements for free accommodation and so far over 450 people have offered a space in their homes. These offers range from self-contained units to a spot on the couch.

While it’s understandable that flights out of Christchurch would be pretty popular, just who is going the other way?

As it turns out, quite a few people are flying in to offer help.

Mark, an electrician from Auckland, posted a message on Facebook, along with his contact number, offering free ‘sparky services’ to anyone in Christchurch.  Meanwhile, other people are simply heading down to help with the cleanup process in whatever way they can.

Among those involved in the cleanup are students from the Canterbury region, who have come out in droves, eager to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

Over 10,000 people have joined the Facebook group ‘Student Volunteer Army to help Christchurch in the aftermath of the quake’. The organiser of the group, student Sam Johnson, has said the students will be working closely with civil defence.

“At this very early stage we are focusing on helping everyday people in their homes in low risk areas with non-life threatening situations,” says Johnson.

With rescue efforts being left to the professionals, the students will tackle the task of helping the elderly or clearing garages of silt and muck.

Unfortunately, the community spirit hasn’t extended to everyone – over twenty people have so far been arrested for theft in Christchurch. Some people have also posted negative jokes and comments on social networking sites.

But if we want to rebuild lives, infrastructure and a broken community we have to keep our spirits up. Something, we have been doing pretty well so far, despite the setbacks.

Just think, for every person that has stolen or posted a negative message, there are hundreds of others offering up beds or posting messages of hope and love.

Some of these offers are long, from Kiwis and expats touched by the disaster, while others are more simple, though no less meaningful: “Kia Kaha* Christchurch, stay strong”.

*Kia kaha means ‘be strong’ in Te reo Maori – the language of the indigenous peoples of New Zealand.

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