Visiting Christchurch: A Shaken Community

Friday, May 10th, 2019 – Christchurch, NZ
Alison and Paige here!
Today our group had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Megan Gibbs, an emergency response manager who experienced the destruction caused by the North Canterbury and Kaikura earthquakes of 2016. The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake was a magnitude 7.8  earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand that occurred two minutes after midnight on 14 November 2016 NZDT. Ruptures occurred on multiple faults and the earthquake has been described as the “most complex earthquake ever studied”.
As students with a healthcare background, Alison and I were both deeply moved by not only the personal stories we were told regarding those at the epicenter of the earthquake but also the actions taken to help the community transition through a time of devastation and trauma. This lecture was also a prime example of how the destruction of our ecological resources can present itself as a diverse group of human diseases such as depression and anxiety. The community itself, however, is amazingly resilient. Our group learned that though mass devastation is a terrifying concept, the locals still have such a powerful outlook. “I think in a lot of ways we had the opportunity to not only learn but rejuvenate our environment after the destruction. We still are improving today” says Sally, a South Island citizen who experienced the earthquake when it arrived in the dead of night. Sally also walked us through the health and ecological aspects regarding emergency aid and response during the time of this crisis.
We were able to explore the different stages of the healthcare model used to get care (both physical and psychological) to those in need during such a devastating event including the 4 R’s: Reduction, Readiness, Response and Recovery. More than anything, I (Paige here) was heavily impacted by the ability of the people here to recognize that something uninvited and cruel happened, but still manage to draw a positive from such tragedy. Just walking around in the town center today with a destroyed church facing us was both heartbreaking and uplifting.
Heartbreaking because such a beautiful structure still sits unrepaired 8 years later. Uplifting because the locals see it as a reminder of where they’ve been and continue to go about their daily activities in the very same park. I’m not sure I would have such resilience.
For the second part of our day Sally took us on a 4 hour walk around the city to look at the areas that have been recovered and the areas that are still needing to be rebuilt. It is amazing and sad all at the same time to see that 8 years later this city is still rebuilding itself. While on this walk we seen many buildings that had scaffolding placed up against it and Stacy told us that the city still hasn’t decided if these historic buildings are worth restoring or if they just want to demolish them. We also viewed many of the areas that they call “gap filling”. In these areas are spaces where buildings did not get restored but they placed activities in for people to use, such as a dance stage where you can plug in your phone and dance to your hearts content.
We also walked though many memorials, the one that stuck out most for me (Alison here) was the 185 chairs. This memorial is not permanent at this time but they are reaching toward this. There are 185 different chairs on a lawn to signify a place for each person lost during the massive earthquake that struck Christchurch.
“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.”- Jamais Cascio
Kia Ora,
Paige & Alison

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