Reality of it all is starting to sink in

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Helping Christchurch’s most needy has been a “real privilege” for big-hearted Queenstown woman Catherine Walker. 

The local Salvation Army auxiliary captain spent last week working in Operation Suburbs – hitting the earthquake-ravaged streets to talk to families affected by the 6.3 magnitude disaster. 

Walker and her husband Kenneth were part of an eight-strong local team that joined Sallies volunteers from across the country for the suburbs welfare effort. 

The mum-of-four travelled the hardest-hit eastern areas with building inspectors and Earthquake Commission staff – her job was to visit homes and make sure people had enough food, water, clothing and other essential services. 

“There’s no doubt about it, people are in really dire straits. They’ve lost everything but their lives, and some people have suffered the tragedy of human loss,” she tells Mountain Scene in Christchurch last Saturday. 

“There have been some things that have been really moving and others that have been really sad, but there’s lots of positive stuff as well. To be able to serve people in that way and for people to welcome you into their home as a complete stranger has been a real privilege.” 

More than two weeks after the deadly quake, people are now starting to get over the shock and feeling tired, Walker says. 

“The seriousness of the situation is now dawning on them. There are a number of them still without water, sewerage and power and that’s really tough going. 

“There are a lot of houses that are damaged and going forward people are wondering what they’re going to do and how they’re going to cope with it. It’s hard.” 

A highlight for Walker has been witnessing the community spirit that’s emerged from the disaster. 

“It’s absolutely amazing how people are checking on each other and helping each other out, which they wouldn’t normally do, and it’s incredible to see that. The people of Christchurch are very resilient.”