You see it on TV and think ‘Oh gosh, that’s sad’, but in reality when you’re here it’s quite overwhelming. I’ve never lived anywhere as isolated as this. And now being in such a remote area you realise the hardships these people, the Coasties, endure - and with good heart. Their families live here, they’re from here, they can’t just up and move. There are so many inequalities, things that are just not fair.
Our school didn't get hit badly with actual damage from flooding, but we had to close for 10 days because we had absolutely no communication whatsoever. I couldn’t even contact staff to tell them school was closed.
We’ve still got a main bridge down, the Awatere 2 leading to the East Cape. You can walk over it but not drive. Twenty of our families are on the other side of the bridge and students are facing quite an arduous journey to get to school. Many parents have a car on one side but not the other, so they drive their kids as far as they can, they walk over the bridge, then our bus picks them up. Some families are staying in two separate houses because they work on different sides of the bridge.
It might seem like business as usual at school, but it’s not. There’s no fruit, because we can’t get deliveries. Milk is rationed at the shop. Our students used to go into Gisborne every Friday for their trades, leaving at 6am. Others would go to play basketball on Friday night. Now it’s too far - nearly five hours going the long way round. So they’re missing that side of their education. They’ve had quite a disruption and I don’t know how they’re going to catch that up. And lots of people are missing family - you can’t just pop over to Gisborne in two hours. I just missed my great granddaughter's second birthday party because I couldn’t face another 10-hour round trip.
This is harder than Covid lockdowns by far. We’re monitoring the students’ moods and their wellbeing. We’ve got our counsellors in twice a week. Most of the childrens’ anxieties will be about heavy rain again. So every day without rain is a happy day. And in spite of the circumstances, they’re happy to be able to get to school. As one said, ‘the students are in good heart.’
There will be more hardship. The cost of living and extra petrol costs has hit our community hard. But believe me KidsCan are making a difference. The extra food arrived this week, and we packaged it up for families immediately. And just the looks on parents’ faces when they came to collect it, their happiness and gratitude, it was just overwhelming. One Dad was so graciously thankful and said, 'My day could not get any better, thank you".
I haven’t been here long and I haven’t seen food parcels handed out, and it was quite emotional. And really quite lovely for our staff to be given all those gorgeous smiles. They were uplifted seeing how KidsCan really cared for our families here. For families on the other side of the bridge our board chair carried the parcels over by hand and then delivered them. So the food was very, very well received.
There will be food on the table for the next couple of weeks for sure. One student told me that they had the minestrone soup last night and it was very nice. I'd never thought beans and spaghetti would be luxury items but for our families they are an extra special treat! We've ordered some more shoes as some were lost in the flood so we are very grateful.
With sincere thanks, and more
Te Waha O Rerekohu Area School