CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
Many families displaced by a 7.8 earthquake in rural and remote North Canterbury Nov. 14 have found temporary refuge in the closest Maori maraes outside the damaged areas. (A marae is a communal place that serves religious, social and humanitarian purposes in Polynesian societies.)
The Maahunui marae, housing and feeding over 50 people, needed hygiene supplies for newly arrived families and those expected to arrive in the days and weeks to come.
“Mormon Helping Hands” volunteers in Christchurch quickly responded to the need by purchasing the necessary supplies, then assembling and delivering personal hygiene kits.
Standing outside the marae, Suzanne Pitama, Relief Society president in Christchurch, paused with emotion when asked why she and other Church members are so anxious to help those displaced by the recent earthquake.
“Our motto is ‘Charity Never Faileth,’ ” she said. “Accordingly the Relief Society, one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations in the world, is always about serving and uplifting those in need.”
But assisting earthquake victims in Christchurch was a special and emotional experience, according to Sister Pitama.
“This was us five years ago. We know what it is like to have our lives turned upside down."
Christchurch was rocked by devastating earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011, then rattled by thousands of aftershocks for over a year. Much of the downtown area and several thousand homes were destroyed. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and 185 people lost their lives.
“Those living in North Canterbury weren’t affected during the Christchurch earthquakes,“ Sister Pitama said, ”and they rushed food and necessities into Christchurch when we were without the basics. This is an opportunity to reciprocate in a small way.”
The personal hygiene kits included soap, towel and washcloth, toothpaste and toothbrush, haircare products, tissues, shaving cream and razors, lotion, and feminine supplies where needed.
Members of the Church, often wearing their familiar bright yellow ‘Mormon Helping Hands’ shirts and vests, can be found across New Zealand and around the world performing service in local communities and helping individuals in need.