The severe weather of November 2020 took many people on the Kāpiti Coast by surprise. On the last Sunday of the month, residents woke up to torrential rain causing havoc in Plimmerton, a suburb northwest of Porirua. Quickly, entire roads became submerged, driveways were turned into ponds and water reached people’s homes, prompting some residents to evacuate and leaving a community in shock.

Emma Fromings is part of this community. Emma was halfway through her morning yoga session when the pouring rain hit the region and her caring neighbour, John, knocked on her door.

“I opened the door – and there was John, my neighbour, and… a river, which was my driveway,” recalls Emma.

“It was such a shock, because I had been in my zone [doing yoga], so I hadn’t realised it was happening and it was so fast! It was a shock to open the door and see a river!”

John suggested that he and Emma move their cars out of their driveway, but it was around the same time people were leaving a nearby church in the flooded street, which meant people were all trying to drive away at the same time.

“Cars were everywhere. It was pretty awful,” says Emma.

John and Emma decided to move their cars to the end of their flooded driveway, in the hope the water wouldn’t them. Luckily, it didn’t.

A friendly face

As the water receded, residents across Plimmerton started to discover the full impact of the flood. Silt was left covering most streets, carpets were soaked and only good for the rubbish dump, and garages were full of wet gear. A big clean up started for all affected residents.

For Emma, while her property wasn’t severely affected, the experience of the flood left her unsettled and in shock. These are some of the feelings she was able to share with New Zealand Red Cross’ Disaster Welfare and Support Team member, Nikki Carver, who was part of the team of volunteers sent to conduct needs assessments and check on residents’ wellbeing.

“I tell you what, it’s very nice to see a friendly face,” says Emma as Nikki walks into her home.

“I have received a lot of support from friends, family and neighbours but I have been wanting to cry for 24 hours and I couldn’t. Seeing you here…,” shares Emma, as tears escape her eyes.

For people like Emma, who are recovering from a disaster, no matter its size, receiving a visit from a friendly face, someone who cares outside of her usual circle of support, can make a big difference.

 “You looked me in the eyes, and I knew you cared. Thank you for coming.” 

Disaster response volunteer, Nikki Carver, providing psychological first aid to Plimmerton resident, Emma Fromings.

Our disaster response volunteers are trained to provide psychological first aid to people affected by a traumatic event. Their role is to offer emotional support, ensure people affected have been listened to and that their needs are being met.

“Checking on Emma’s welfare, I feel, is a huge relief for her – having someone to hold her hand and reassure her that she is doing the right thing,” explains Nikki.

“I think quite often, by having someone provide that reassurance, it gives them the encouragement to focus on what they can do.”

Following the flooding in Plimmerton, Civil Defence and Emergency Management requested the support of New Zealand Red Cross. A total of eight disaster response volunteers were deployed to conduct welfare checks on affected residents like Emma.

“It feels like it [Nikki’s visit] settled me, it feels like I am settled,” shares Emma towards the end of her conversation with Nikki.

“There’s been this kind of unsettled feeling, despite the support, because I haven’t really known what to do, and with the rain coming tonight, I wondered if I should be doing something. Having you come, Nikki, and have you made that eye contact at the start, that’s what so important. Thank you, I feel settled, I will be fine now.”

Always needed, always there

Our disaster response volunteers train all year around to be ready to deploy, should a disaster happen. From providing first aid, to emotional support and support with evacuation, our volunteers are multi-skilled and available to support people affected by a disaster at a moment’s notice. You can help us make this possible: