Driving people for half an hour to take a shower ... helping pick out clothes to wear to a funeral during a flood while fleeing a flooding home ...

These are the moments when Gypsy Chant feels like she is having an impact.

The Whanganui woman has been a Red Cross volunteer for six years and already has two major disasters under her belt.

She joined in 2009 after returning from overseas, where she had visited the Red Cross international headquarters in Geneva, and she is now a training officer in the Whanganui disaster welfare support team.


Mrs Chant said Red Cross provided a range of relief services which were not fully understood by the general public until the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, the first large scale deployment for Red Cross in New Zealand.

A five-day stint in Christchurch post-earthquake gave Mrs Chant a taste of what the Red Cross meant to people in times of disaster.

"We picked an old lady up who hadn't had a shower for a week," she said.

"We just went into her home and helped her find her clothes and took her for a shower, which was a half an hour drive. Even though the shower ended up being cold, she was just grateful to have that, to have some running water and have someone care.

"In Christchurch going down and coming back up, people just walk up and hug you and say thank you so much for giving up your time and helping. It's humbling."

There are 20 volunteers in Whanganui who train for two hours once a week in a range of activities such as ground-based rescue, triage and outreach. There are also community events such as motocross which they help out with on a regular basis.

"Everything from welfare to people who are displaced or traumatised by events that are out of their control and may not be able to get back to their home," she said. "You need to be adaptable, flexible, cope with different situations. Kind of like teaching."

Teaching is, in fact, what Mrs Chant does for a day job at Wanganui East Kindergarten.

Four years after the Christchurch disaster, Mrs Chant was called on in her home town when Whanganui began to flood on June 20 last year. There she was involved in evacuations and working with the Fire Service inside the cordon. She remembers helping someone pick clothes to wear to a funeral that day as they were fleeing a flooding house.

"You never know what could happen because, in a disaster, things are rapidly changing and moving all the time," Mrs Chant said. "It's people showing resilience and that's kind of what Red Cross is about; teaching people resilience and helping people to regain their resilience after a disaster."

People interested in volunteering can register their names at the Red Cross bookshop on Guyton St, Whanganui.