When 69-year-old Evangeline Feleo opened her curtains early morning on Sunday 29 November 2020, she did not expect to see her plants floating in her garden, nor water covering her entire driveway.

The torrential rain that hit the region sent water rushing through many Plimmerton residents’ houses, prompting the evacuation of 15 homes. It also caused damage to more than 100 properties, including Evangeline’s.

“I was in shock,” recalls Evangeline.

“I was busy on Sunday morning doing my usual meditation, and I opened my curtains and saw water everywhere. It was rising so quickly – the water level was up to above my knees.”

As the weather cleared up and the water started to recede, traces of silt and mud were left in her garage and shed. This sight quickly prompted Evangeline to put on her gumboots and begin the clean-up.

“I live alone, so I had to do this myself. I cleaned yesterday for the whole day,” explains Evangeline.

Red Cross response bringing relief

At the request of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, New Zealand Red Cross’ Disaster Welfare and Support Team in Kapiti-Mana was activated to support the wider regional response effort in Plimmerton. A total of six disaster response volunteers visited affected residents to conduct welfare checks and needs assessment.

“The purpose is to show that they [the residents] have support, that there are people are around. We’re letting them know we are friendly faces and we can provide assistance,” says Nikki Carver, New Zealand Red Cross disaster response volunteer present in Plimmerton.

When Nikki arrived at Evangeline’s property, she found the woman bustling around, cleaning up her garage and wondering whether the meat in her freezer would still be edible.

Nikki was welcomed with a huge smile and a clear sign of relief could be seen on Evangeline’s face.

“Oh, are you Red Cross? Oh, thank you so much for coming,” says Evangeline to Nikki.

Nikki’s first question to Evangeline was how she was doing – a simple question, but one that matters for many residents who might still be in shock from the recent event.

When she realised that Evangeline’s property had been affected and that she was feeling slightly emotional, Nikki carried on with their conversation to assess if Evangeline requires further assistance.

“Talking to Evangeline really reinforces what we do here at Red Cross, which is providing comfort in times of need. I really think it helped Evangeline to chat,” shares Nikki.

Nikki Carver, New Zealand Red Cross disaster response volunteer, bringing comfort to Evangeline during her welfare check.

While sharing the series of events with Nikki, Evangeline couldn’t help but shed a few tears as she recalled everything that happened. Despite her situation, she remained optimistic as she still considers herself lucky compared to other residents in the area who, she said, had it much worse.

“There is no point being upset,” explains Evangeline.

“Also, we are not out of the woods yet. More rain is coming.”

After filling out the needs assessment form, Nikki made some notes of all the assistance Evangeline may need. She also made sure that Evangeline’s wellbeing is in check as providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) is among the most crucial role our disaster response volunteers play during emergencies.

“Internationally, Red Cross is number one. We see you on TV after every disaster in Asia or Africa,” says Evangeline.

“Red Cross is always there, so I am so very happy to see Red Cross here today.”

The red cross emblem is one of the most recognised symbols in the world. The emblem also symbolises the independent, neutral and impartial assistance delivered by the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. For Evangeline, seeing Nikki wear that emblem meant just that, bringing along a sense of relief and hope.

Help us be ready

Flooding such as the one in Plimmerton this week, or Napier last month, can happen anytime, anywhere. Our teams across Aotearoa are on standby, ready to support people like Evangeline, in the aftermath of a disaster. Our teams are made up of volunteers, equipped with proper knowledge and skills that are kept up to date through regular training all year round. This is made possible through the generous support of our regular donors  –you can support our disaster response team here.