When she was woken up by the shake of last week's 7.8 magnitude earthquake, Fiona immediately knew it was a big one.

“The earthquake woke me up – I rarely wake up to earthquakes as I am a heavy sleeper! I knew there was a high likelihood of being on standby and receiving a call from them," she says.

By ‘them’, Fiona means the Red Cross team responsible for deploying Disaster and Welfare Support Team volunteers. Fiona packed her bags for a few days, just in case, and then went into Red Cross to see how she could help.

“I went to the office the following morning and by 11am, I was deployed as a squad leader in Woodend," she says.

When Fiona and the rest of her team arrived in Woodend, where evacuated tourists were arriving, they immediately met Civil Defence to find out what type of help was needed.

“It’s all about these organisations working together towards the same purpose of helping people. It’s a massive team effort,” she says.

“We supported Civil Defence by providing and setting up stretchers, blankets, bedding, and supporting them with first aid cover. Our next big task was to assist evacuees as they came by helicopter from Kaikoura. The choppers kept coming. We probably unloaded 16 helicopters that first day.”

New Zealand Red Cross has reached hundreds of people in the quake-affected regions with emergency aid, food, water, welfare checks and psychosocial support, helping people cope with the emotional impacts of the earthquake. More than 100 Red Cross field personnel have responded so far and 50 are currently on the ground assisting those affected.

After two days on the ground with little sleep, Fiona went back to Christchurch and her day job – a Red Cross Community Fundraising Coordinator – while supporting the Emergency Operations Centre, dedicating her days off to volunteering and supporting the emergency response.

“We know it’s going to be a long road to recovery. I’ve seen New Zealanders come together before to support those in need, and I believe we can all find fun and engaging ways to support the people affected by this earthquake. Fundraising is a practical and rewarding way to help. It’s also important to ensure you and your family are prepared at home too, and that we look out for one another," she says.

New Zealand Red Cross has opened a special appeal for the earthquakes. There are many ways schools, businesses and groups of friends can get involved – a mufti day, a donation box over the counter or a sausage sizzle are some of the ways people can fundraise, in their own time. Have a look at our page to get inspired.