Krystal Boyes leads the Disaster Welfare and Support Team (DWST) in Whanganui, which has been helping at the local community-based assessment centre. The team of volunteers has been rotating in shifts since before New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4 in March, supporting people coming through to get tested for COVID-19. She says the work is varied, but consistently busy.

“We are there to make the job of the medical staff easier and faster,” Krystal explains. “We help with traffic control, getting people to complete the questionnaire and cleaning equipment between each person [being tested].”

Members of the Disaster Welfare and Support Team in Whanganui who have been supporting the centre.

Community-based assessment centres are managed at the local level by District Health Boards. People concerned that they may have contracted COVID-19 can visit the centre to be assessed and tested if required.

Beside the practical tasks that Krystal and the team are helping with, they are also putting their Psychological First Aid (PFA) training to work by taking the opportunity to check in on people’s welfare.

“It is also a good chance for our team to use Psychosocial First Aid and check in with people to see how they are doing, and listen and talk through any worries they might have in the current situation.”

PFA is  about providing emotional support to people in need. Every DWST member is trained in PFA, a skill that Krystal and team-mate Juan Coffey agree has come in handy. Juan says he has seen several people who are anxious and distressed come through the centre, and he and the team have spent a lot of time helping to ease people’s fears. 

“There’s a lot of high anxiety levels as you can imagine, there are people here running around in full PPE and it can be quite scary,” says Juan. “We have been applying a lot of Psychological First Aid lowering anxiety levels, and that kind of thing for our community.”

Krystal is grateful for the commitment of her team, and says they will help as long as they are needed.

“We’ve had really positive feedback from people who have come through the centre. They express huge gratitude to Red Cross for the emotional support and guidance through the process.” 

You can help too

From continuing to deliver meals to people unable to cook, to supporting former refugee communities, we’ve been working hard to keep Kiwis safe and well. There are plenty of ways you can help: