After the quake, comfort

2011-02-26 00:00

AS the aftershocks continue in Christchurch, the “city that rocks”, ordinary people are trying to pick up the pieces after this week’s earthquake.

Weary of feeling helpless while others around her were suffering, a former Pietermaritzburg resident rolled up her sleeves and sprang into action. Kate Chemaly, a professional photographer, said yesterday, “I felt helpless sitting in the comfort of my own home whilst others out there had nothing, no water, food or a roof over their heads.

“There had to be something I could do to help. We get water from a well on the farm that is suitable for drinking without boiling so I decided it was time to get into action.”

She called around the city to find a plastic bottle supplier who was willing to donate bottles to distribute drinking water to the harder struck areas in Christchurch.

“Eventually I managed to find a company which produces two-litre milk bottles and they donated thousands of empty bottles to us.”

She got a team together to help fill the bottles and distribute them to people in need, delivering thousands of litres over the past two days.

“We walked down the mangled and silt-filled streets passing houses crumbled by the force of Mother Nature. Some areas are like a ghost town as people have just up and left and some are still packing up their belongings to flee the shaky city.

“Whilst delivering the water we got to meet the most wonderful people who were so grateful and happy to receive this, anyone would think we were giving away gold.

“The mixed emotions on these faces could write a book, one of sadness, loss and maybe even a little hope. A very humbling experience to be a part of — hopefully something we will never have to experience again.”

A teacher at Ashburton College, Ruth Davey, another former Pietermaritzburg resident, said her daughter, Hannah, went with her to her school in Ashburton yesterday “just to get away from the shaking for a while”.

“The quake saved up a couple of four-pointers for our return home, reminding us of what it is like to live here in Christchurch at present. It is exhausting and nervewracking.”

Davey said they are expecting almost 50 new pupils to enrol at their school on Monday.

“Some of them left their Christchurch schools with only the clothes they were wearing at the time that the quake struck. We will need to fit them into classes where possible, or make some arrangement for them to study the subjects they have chosen, or help them change their choices.”

She said some will be temporary enrolments until their schools reopen, which could take a while as many good schools in Christchurch have had buildings so badly damaged that they will not be able to reopen in the near future, if ever.

“Some students have had enough of the city that rocks and want to live and study elsewhere.”

Davey moved from Pietermaritzburg in 2007 to live in Christchurch.


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