Christchurch earthquake: Victim Support volunteers help families grieve

Victim Support volunteers, many who have themselves lost homes, are working round the clock in Christchurch to provide support to a city which has "lost its heart" after Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine told NZPA that volunteers and staff were helping families whose "world has been completely turned around in a sudden and savage way.

"They are families.. in that terrible sort of limbo of fearing the worst but hoping for the best... or they are dealing with a confirmed death or are very certain that someone had died in which case they are grieving," Mr Paine said.

Those with lost or missing friends and family members were not the only ones devastated by the quake and the whole city was "mourning and grieving for the loss of its heart really".

Volunteers provided support by advising people on how to deal with grief, anxiety and loss and referring people to other professionals such as psychologists.

"Just having someone to talk to you, someone to be with you, that's very important," Mr Paine said.

Many of the volunteers based in Christchurch had also lost homes but were still eager to get out and help, he said.

Victim Support had staff rostered on at Papanui Police station 24 hours a day and also had people at the indoor Pioneer Stadium from 9am to 8pm.

It had about 20 staff and volunteers rostered on at any one time and was working to bring in more staff from around the country, with 100 people on standby and ready to come to the city.

Many of the volunteers had previously dealt with families dealing with lost loved ones during the Pike River disaster and had also helped following the September 4 earthquake.

"I think experience is one of the things that makes people better at what they do.. but there's also the other side of the coin which is that if you are repeatedly exposed to other peoples trauma that can have a pretty tough impact on you," he said

The many people who would not be able to speak to Victim Support should turn to the community friends and family for support.

"The one good situation to come out of this, is that perhaps our community will be strengthened."

- NZPA

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