Volunteers have been working around the clock in South Auckland to provide relief to people displaced by flood waters.
The Māngere Welfare Centre moved to a new location after demand exceeded the previous venue’s capacity.
Bernadette Tovio said she had taken time off work and study to help her community.
“I work full time, and I’m doing an MBA through Massey University,” she said. “I’ve got an assignment due this weekend, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to find some time between here and work – but the welfare of our people is the most important.”
Tovio was one of several volunteers providing relief to people displaced by flooding in South Auckland. She said it had been heartbreaking to see her neighbours struggling.
“We had a family come in and the gentleman, all his work tools were damaged in the flood, that’s his means of income to support his family,” Tovio said.
“For us it’s about meeting our community’s basic needs, which should be really simple but it’s not.”
On Tuesday, her team moved to a new location: the Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa fitness centre in the middle of Māngere.
Manukau Ward Councillor Alf Filipaina said the old venue in Manurewa just could not meet demand.
“It’s been hectic, but that’s because the community needs us here,” he said. “We closed our other site because it was too small, and we moved everything within the space of an hour.”
Filipaina said part of the challenge had been convincing people to accept help. He urged people not to be shy.
“We had a couple that came in looking for accommodation, somewhere to sleep, because they had been sleeping in their car since Friday and they were too shy to ask for assistance,” he said.
“They said: is it ok for us to sleep here? They had been sleeping in their car!”
Aucklanders were donating food, bedding, and dry clothes for people unable to return home.
Filipaina said the donations were being put to good use. “It’s amazing, but as soon as we get [donations] in, they go out,” he said. “Towels, especially. We’re running out of towels.”
Councillor Josephine Bartley grew up in Māngere, and rushed to help when she heard how hard the area had been hit. She said the volunteers were doing incredible mahi.
“People are coming up to me and asking if I’ve been resting, if I’ve slept,” she said. “I’ve been averaging about 3 hours of sleep [each night] so if that’s me and I’m not doing a lot of the manual labour, I can only imagine what the volunteers are going through.”
Volunteers Jacinta and Pauline said the support from the community had been staggering.
“You get inspired by the generosity, the collective spirit,” Jacinta said.
“The community has been amazing, everyone has wanted to help,” said Pauline.
Tovio said the donations, and the work of her fellow volunteers, had been absolutely vital.
“I’m really really thankful, because without people volunteering and donating these items we wouldn’t be in a position to be able to help our community.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz