Putting Faces to the Names

I drove for the first time in New Zealand! And I didn’t crash! I don’t know why it’s a theme for me to be put in situations where I’m the only one able to drive at that point in time. Driving in a blizzard at night in Canada? Driving on the left side of the road in New Zealand? Surely there has to be someone better suited to drive other than the American girl from the South. But alas, I first had to drive my boss’ car back to the office after dropping them off at a meeting in the city, and then I had to drive my other boss’ van to do some deliveries on Thursday. This week I basically put all my energy into CVOC again, but unlike my first week, I was more confident in my decisions, my responsibilities, and my place in the organization.

On Monday, Zhiyan brought me along to visit some of the survivors still recovering in-hospital. It was a privilege to put some faces to the names that I knew our organization had been helping, and most seem to be doing well, alhamdulilah. Most of the week was more of the same—organizing care package deliveries, delegating to volunteers, doing data entry, and just holding down the fort as my supervisors did their thing.

My roommate Lizzie actually came to help me on Tuesday! She said it was actually a good day: busy, but fulfilling. I put her to work with preparing care packages which also went out the same day, and I managed to arrange for volunteers to deliver them to the families.

On Thursday there were some new volunteers, and thank goodness one of them was able to heavy-lift as we had to go pick up some more donations of office supplies. I definitely would not have been able to lift chairs and cabinets and wall screens, so it was very fortuitous he offered his help that day.

Later that day, I did some care package deliveries and interviews of some victims’ families. That’s when I had to drive the van for an extended period of time. To be fair, I made another volunteer drive most of the way. But hey, because we carpooled, we saved on gas—saving the planet one carpool at a time! In all seriousness, it was very good to have another volunteer there. I think we made a very good team as he was Sri Lankan so he managed to connect with some of the families we visited. He was also able to talk to the men of the families while I talked with the women, allowing us to gain more information and perspectives.

Some of the prepared care packages: non-perishable cooking ingredients, baked goods, and fresh fruits and vegetables

The home visits, like the hospital visits, made the whole experience more concrete. They’re not just names or statistics on paper, they’re actual people who are still grieving and need people willing to listen to them. Admittedly, it was a bit emotionally draining to go from family to family, asking about their affected loved ones. However, I think it was a good chance for me to apply both my religious studies and anthropological skills in order to empathize with the families and make them feel comfortable.

After noticing that one of the families was sleeping on mats on the floor, one of our volunteers arranged for each of the family members to receive some donated mattresses

All in all, it was a very good week spent volunteering before my break next week in which I will travel throughout the South Island. I’m a bit reluctant to leave my supervisors as I believe that they have so many crucial things to take care of, but I’m sure they’ll survive a week without me, inshallah! Next week’s break will be good though; it will be my first time traveling outside of Christchurch so I’ll get to see more of New Zealand. Let’s see if I survive my first time camping though!

What I learned:

  1. Christchurch is full of crazy drivers!
  2. Regular gas is more expensive than diesel gas here? How does that make sense?

What I need to learn:

  1. How far a meter and kilometer is. Is it close, is it far, who knows?
  2. How to offer help while being clear about the limits of support.