Belinda Rawson had just finished a late-night feed for her youngest child, Cason. She was lying in bed when her daughter jumped in with the two of them.

Suddenly the house began shaking violently. A loud bang signalled the end of the tremor and Belinda grabbed her three children and ran outside, unsure of what to do next.

“We all stood there for a while because we were all blown away [by what happened]. We finally got in the car and drove up [the hill].”

Belinda tells the story calmly but a few details indicate the frantic nature of the night. Cason had to be taken to hospital to be checked after an accident as the young family rushed out the door. Details are also sketchy in some parts, which is often a sign of increased cortisol levels due to stress.

“It’s been pretty hard, there have been a lot of illnesses. There’s less work for some people, I was lucky to get a job but my partner isn’t getting as much work as he used to because less tourists are coming.”

Life isn’t getting easier for the family, they’ve just been told they’re being evicted from their home.

“There’s nowhere to go because there are no houses because all the workers coming into town are getting them. We’ll either have to move out of town - I’m not the only one, there are a lot of people struggling to find houses and accommodation and they’re all having to leave as well - or maybe have to live in a caravan. I have no idea what we’re going to do.”

Belinda says the support she’s received has been incredibly valuable to the family over the winter.

“We got parcels from the Red Cross, which made my day a lot of the time. One day I didn’t have enough money to buy food and a Red Cross lady showed up on my doorstep and it made my day. It helped lots.”

She says the little things have kept her going throughout the year. The family often goes on walks and plans to go for swims now that summer is approaching. Above all though, Belinda says having friends and family members to turn to has been an important part of the recovery process. 

“Just relaxing, chatting about it with friends and whānau coming into the preschool [has helped]. Getting those little gifts [from Red Cross] was pretty cool too.”

Although Belinda now works fulltime at a local preschool, she used to attend a playgroup for mums and their babies in Kaikoura that was set up after the earthquakes and is supported by Red Cross.

The Plunket-run playgroup meets twice a week and is vital for building social connectedness in the community. 

Jo Ogden with baby Paige at the Red Cross supported playgroup in Kaikoura. 

Four babies sit in the middle of the room playing with toys while their parents sit nearby watching them carefully and chatting openly. One is Jo Ogden who started bringing her daughter Paige here in March.

“I like the social side of it, it’s just nice to get out of the house,” she says.

“Everybody chats about what’s going on in their lives, you realise you’re not the only one in that situation. Even talking about our older children and what they’re going through provides good support.”

Groups such as these have been incredibly important for the community, which has been virtually isolated since the earthquake.

Find out more about New Zealand Red Cross recovery activities here.