It was an all-too-close rem' />

Christchurch's earthquake shook the city to its core, and did the same for Haiti quake survivor Emily Sanson-Rejouis.

It was an all-too-close reminder of her tragic loss eight months ago when her husband and two daughters perished beneath the rubble in Port-au-Prince.

Sanson-Rejouis - who yesterday competed in Nelson's gruelling Spring Challenge women's adventure race to raise money for Haiti - has returned to her hometown of Nelson with her surviving daughter, 2-year-old Alyahna.

When the Christchurch quake struck she was on her way back from France, where she'd been visiting her late husband Emmanuel's family.

"I transited through Christchurch to Nelson. I was in the airport on the Monday afternoon after the earthquake when there was an aftershock.

"A few things fell off the counter and I had a very strong emotional and physical reaction. It brought up memories of my experience in Haiti, which was very, very difficult."

Sanson-Rejouis can't bring herself to talk about the horror she endured that January day as she scrabbled desperately through her wrecked Port-au-Prince apartment searching for her family, and the heartbreaking loss of Emmanuel and their girls, Kofie-Jade, 5, and Zenzie, 3.

Little Alyahna was pulled out with a broken leg after 22 hours.

"One of the things I find extremely hard to come to terms with is the disparity between the level of destruction and the loss of life in Haiti versus New Zealand," she said.

Despite the two quakes being virtually the same magnitude, estimates of the number killed in Haiti's 7.0-magnitude jolt range from 230,000 to more than 300,000, while no one died in Christchurch's 7.1 quake.

The difference boiled down to New Zealand's high building standards and "exemplary" quake response.

For Alyahna's sake, the 37-year-old has pushed herself to keep moving forward.

Sanson-Rejouis has devoted herself to the Kenbe La Foundation, which she established in memory of her husband and daughters. "It's a vehicle for hope in the face of a tragedy that's literally incomprehensible."

Its name is Haitian Creole for "Never Give Up" and its first project is to rebuild the Source of Hope community school that was destroyed in the quake.

In the Leogane region where Emmanuel was born, near the epicentre, the school will cater to 120 students and will emphasise sports, music, leadership and entrepreneurship.

She's grateful for donations that have filled two shipping containers, ranging from stationery given by children to a prefabricated classroom provided by a Nelson businessman.

Sanson-Rejouis plans to take a team of people to Haiti early next year to assemble the classroom, create a water-supply system, medical clinic, playground and extra classrooms by converting the containers.

It will be her first time back.

"It's going to be very difficult emotionally, but it's really important for me to go back, and it's important for Alyahna to continue to have a connection to Haiti."

Sanson-Rejouis and her team finished the race in just under eight hours, about half an hour behind the winners.

* To help fund Kenbe La's work, visit or make a donation at the BNZ.