How Home Bundles Help – Hend’s Story

8 February 2024

We met up with Hend Selim and Laila Abd El Gawad, just two of more than 1,000 Home Bundles recipients who have already received their delivery, to hear their story about the severe weather events of 2023. Here they share the heart-warming impact of their Home Bundle on their life. Losing all your possessions in a flood is devastating, especially when you have no means to replace them. This is where New Zealand Red Cross could help. 

When the flooding started in January 2023, Hend Selim was in the supermarket doing a normal grocery shop while her mother and sister were at home cooking dinner. Alongside the intense rain, memories of the terrifying bus ride home - where the bus was filling up with water - will stay with Hend for life.  

Hend’s story 

After swimming through thigh-high water, whilst attempting to reach her home, Hend arrived to discover her belongings either water-logged or floating in the lower level while her mother screamed upstairs in panic.  

Hend tells us it was overwhelming. “I didn't know what to do. I had my friend swim to me and jumped from the deck to help me pack and get the boxes out from the garage to level one.” 

Two women sitting on a couch reading the Home Bundles package

Hend Selim and Laila Abd El Gawad

Hend explains: “You wake up one day in your bedroom and you have all your belongings and the next day it's bricks, no carpets, nothing. It's all gone.”  

As the clean-up began, and items were discarded due to water-damage, the family nursed significant injuries from lifting heavy water-logged items. Laila, Hend’s mother, broke both wrists from slipping during the clean-up and the family have ongoing injuries from all the moving.  

Selim remembers that when attempting to save items from their house, it was nearly impossible “because everything was heavy from the water, I couldn't lift any of the boxes”. 

Hend explains that while it was heart-breaking to see the amount of household rubbish created across the 40 neighbouring townhouses in their complex; it was also magical to observe the power of humanity - as neighbours and supporters alike channelled the Red Cross ethos of coming together to help each other in a time of need. 

On the flip side it was heart-breaking to see the trash area.  

“It was just piles, hills of people's house. Furniture, clothes, electronics, just everything. Just piles and piles of people's lives.” Selim says. 

The weeks following the floods were unsettling, as Hend couch-hopped and organised temporary accommodation via the Temporary Accommodation Service, - one of many Red Cross delivery partners identifying eligible households for Home Bundles. 

Why offer Home Bundles? 

Women carrying a box containing household items

Hend Selim receiving household items from Home Bundles

After Cyclone Gabrielle and the other severe weather events of 2023, Red Cross could see that people were struggling to replace essential belongings.  

Sean Stewart, Red Cross General Manager Emergency Management and International, explains:  

“We’ve found many people are struggling to replace lost furniture and created the Red Cross Home Bundles programme to help people move back into their homes as they rebuild their lives.”  

“As hundreds of families were still waiting to either return to their homes or find suitable accommodation, this long-term programme was rolled out over a number of months to be ready when people need us and are ready to receive their delivery”. 

Where did we find eligible recipients?

We have been working closely with communities and organisations over the past year and our Fund has helped thousands of people who were affected by Cyclone Gabrielle and other severe weather events in January and February 2023.    

We worked with local delivery partners on the ground, such as iwi and community organisations and council welfare teams, across Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland; Tairāwhiti, and Hawkes Bay to find the Bundles were available to the most vulnerable households who meet a set criteria.  This included: living in an area affected by the severe weather in January and February; suffering significant loss or damage to their home contents; and having limited or no means to replace lost items.  

Distribution and Delivery

The Warehouse Group continue to supply items for the Bundles at a discounted price. They provide a ‘one-stop-shop' for all the Home Bundle items as part of their long-standing relationship with Red Cross through our Disaster Response Alliance.  

Women opening a draw containing pots and pans

Pots and pan received via Home Bundles

Deliveries differed on a case-by-case basis depending on what people had ordered and when they were able to receive their delivery.  

“As of January 30th, 364 bundles have been ordered so far and these are either delivered or in processing, with the remainder to be delivered in the first half of 2024 - when recipients confirm they are ready for delivery. We’re expecting to provide about 600 bundles in total” Stewart says. 

Our goal was to ensure an easy delivery process, direct to people’s door. For those in Temporary Accommodation Service accommodation (like Selim and her family) the deliveries were distributed and even unpacked for them:  

“The support that we got from the New Zealand Red Cross, oh they were so cute – to have everything stacked and ready waiting for us in the kitchen, and in the bedroom, and with all the duvet covers and pillows, and the towels all like, you know, folded. And having the furniture – it was just like overwhelming!" Hend exclaims. 

Feeling supported and sleeping easier  

Hend tells us the best part of receiving a Home Bundle, was it “helped Mum to go to sleep and rest”. Up until that point the family had packed and moved four times and had been running on adrenaline whilst dealing with both loss and the grief of a family member. Now that the family are settled in a stable environment and have the essentials to enjoy a cup of tea, and a healthy bed to sleep in, they are able to rest and recover.  

Two women embrace one another after recieving Home Bundles


Hend emphasises that Home Bundles “provides the positive. Because when there's so much negativity and just, disaster happening, you have to think in a positive mindset. Otherwise, you're not going to survive it. So, the positivity was everyone coming together. It was so magical.” 

Like many of us, Hend acknowledges that “never in the world I would expect that I would be on the other side” of receiving assistance from Red Cross.  

She explains that: “The best part I found about working with New Zealand Red Cross is that they made it so easy, and it was just at the time where it was just, we were just about to give up and lose hope. That's what the Red Cross is all about.” 

For more information  

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Read the latest updates on the New Zealand Disaster Fund and our work supporting communities affected by Cyclone Gabrielle and the other severe weather events of 2023.

New Zealand Disaster Fund updates

Credit header image: Hend Selim and Laila Abd El Gawad discuss Home Bundles.