Playcentre Pitches In

Playcentre Pitches In

When most of the country was rudely awakened shortly after midnight on November the 14th, Christchurch residents were immediately aware that the quake was huge but that it was centred elsewhere. We are all amateur seismologists these days.

As we grabbed for our devices to confirm our guesses we became aware that this big one was centred near Kaikoura and that its magnitude was indeed mighty. The kind of mighty that does more than disrupt sleep.

For many the remainder of the night was sleepless as we listened to RNZ, children snuggled into beds with their parents, before marking ourselves safe on Facebook; or drove around in a daze in search of  elevation as tsunami sirens blared in the distance. But this isn’t so much a story about what happened that night, as a story about how the Canterbury Playcentre community has responded with aroha in the weeks following the quake.

At some point in the early hours of Monday morning, as Kate Jones from Kaikoura Playcentre sat perched on higher ground due to the tsunami threat, her thoughts turned to her beloved Playcentre. She knew that it would be a mess.

Its fate, she later discovered, was not quite as bad as she feared. Lights were broken and hanging precariously from the ceiling by wires. One light had fallen on the kai table. Some windows were cracked. The office was in disarray and toys were everywhere. But it was all able to be mended and tidied. Although the damage wasn’t major, it would have been devastating if the earthquake had happened during a session.

Quickly the debris and disarray were cleaned up by keen locals, people unable to go about their usual business post-quake. It came as a relief to the Playcentre supervisors and parents that they could instead focus their energy on tidying up their own homes and on taking care of their shaken tamariki.

Not so far away, in the lesser affected parts of Canterbury, we focused our attention on what could be done to support the Playcentre families most affected by the quake. Cantabrians were only too keen to return the generosity that many of us had experienced in the weeks, months and years that followed the major Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Emails were sent, Facebook posts made and boxes filled as Playcentres around the region began collecting grocery items, gifts, little luxuries and useful odds and ends to send to our extended Playcentre whanau in Kaikoura.

Through the thoughtful and determined coordination of the Canterbury Playcentre Association and families from Kaikoura, the boxes of goodies made it to the quake-stricken town without delay.

Kate and a colleague sorted the general items to divide amongst the centre members and then delivered them to the Playcentre families. Some essential items, like coffee, were kept for general use. The gifts are to be set aside, to bring a little extra joy to the centre’s end of year celebrations over the coming weeks.
Members of the community are enormously thankful for the generosity of fellow Playcentre families. ‘Everyone was extremely grateful, and very humbled by the donations, amazed that we have been so well looked after’, said Kate. Donations came from all corners of the regions, from Belfast, Prebbleton, Amberley, Akaroa, West Melton and Landsdowne Terrace Playcentres, and Fendalton Babies CanPlay, among others.

Kate also commented, ‘We have had emails and phone calls from other centres around the country, containing lovely messages’.

While informal gatherings of parents and children were held at the centre in the days following the quake, sessions only resumed last week, providing a much needed return to normality for families and their children.

‘It’s vital for parents to have a space to come together to debrief during such times’, says Kate.

In times of stress it makes a huge difference to be part of such a supportive community.

Heartfelt donations continue to arrive in Kaikoura from around Canterbury and are still very much appreciated.

As the aftershock sequence lulls for those of us further away from the epicentre, we need to keep in mind that those at the Kaikoura Playcentre are still facing uncertainty and upheaval.

Kia kaha Kaikoura!

By Frances Martin

Posted: Monday 12 December 2016