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Gypsy is part of the Red Cross Disaster Welfare and Support Team, a team of volunteers who are trained in disaster response and emergency management. The team responded to floods in Whanganui after heavy rain caused record flooding, not just in Whanganui, but also in Taranaki, Rangitikei, Hokitika and Dunedin.
Here’s what Gypsy had to say from a welfare centre in Whanganui yesterday.
“I thought we might get our feet wet, but I didn’t think we would be waist deep! The water got so deep, so quick.
“At the first home I went in I saw the contents of a bedroom floating. It’s hard to ask people to leave their homes, but the situation was getting worse.
“For the rest of the day we evacuated people, helped them do it and made sure they got important things – medication, insurance forms and other essential items.
“Our Red Cross teams also helped to set up and run the welfare centres and helped people find accommodation. We have also been doing community outreach, checking on vulnerable people in their homes and helping deliver medication to people that need it.
“More Red Cross teams tried coming in from around the country, but as the roads were closed they only got in on Sunday. Whanganui was totally cut off, like a little island.
“People have been coming into the welfare centre seeking help, but everyone is different. Some people just want a cuppa and a chat and we are there for that too. People come in here and feel reassured, even if all we can give them is a cup of tea. I have been amazed by people’s spirits, neighbours helping each other.
“We have 20 DWST volunteers in Whanganui, which is a lot for a small community. In November we did an emergency training exercise in Whanganui to prepare for disasters like this, but I never thought it would actually happen.
“I’m a kindy teacher, but I love my volunteer work with Red Cross. I teach in Whanganui East, which was hardest hit by the floods, so I know a lot of the affected families which makes it very real for me.
“It’s surreal, people’s homes have gone. The full impact of the flooding won’t hit home until people go back to their homes.
“People will need help, some have lost everything. New Zealanders should help because a disaster like this could happen to any of us.”
100 per cent of funds raised for the June 2015 Floods Appeal will go directly towards helping those worst affected by the flooding.
Ways to give
Online: www.redcross.org.nz/donate (This is the preferred method of donating)
Phone: 0800 RED CROSS
Post: New Zealand Red Cross Supporter Services, June 2015 Floods Appeal, PO Box 12140, Thorndon, Wellington 6144
Bank: 12-3192-0015998-00; include your name and reference: Floods SP129. Email firstname.lastname@example.org the date, amount, name and address for a receipt.