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Christchurch Earthquake

Our earthquake story

Message to church leaders and supporters 28/2/2011

Update from CWS 24/2/2011

3 January 2012

Warmest New Year greetings from the Philippines.
I am sorry to hear about the big aftershocks and the related inconveniences to your temporary accommodations.  We hope that everything will be much, much better this year.
Our best wishes to you and everyone at CWS!
Developers Foundation

24 December 2011

We just heard about the new earthquakes that have hit Christchurch today. Our feelings are with you and we pray that all of you are safe.

May the Baby Jesus keep and protect you, your city and your country.

With warmest greetings from Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Dr. Bernard Sabella
Executive Secretary
Department of Service to  Palestinian Refugees
Middle East Council of Churches

Messages of Support

CWS has been touched by the many emails of concern and solidarity from our partners around the world.  Please read their messages for CWS, its staff and supporters, and the people of Christchurch.



Tonga Community Development Trust, Tonga

“People in Tonga are still very much touched by what's happening in Christchurch. A national fund raising event was staged on Saturday last week and was organised by the Tongan Red Cross.  It was followed by a national prayer on Sunday evening organised by the Government and the Council of church leaders and all were dedicated for Christchurch. We hope that it helps at least to ease some of the pain and emotions that people are going through.”


Pacific Council of Churches, Fiji

“As we watched with horror the developments in Christchurch, we are very mindful of the fact that you and your colleagues are there and have no doubt suffered from this earthquake. Our prayers and calls for solidarity to the churches in the Pacific with you will be made from us here in Oceania.

We hope and pray that our Lord will grant you the strength to overcome this difficult time and look forward into the future with serenity and calm in accepting our limits as human beings and trusting in our Lord as our protector.



“On behalf of the Executive Forum, Staff, Volunteers, Facilitators, Youths, I send this "Loloma"  message from Fiji. On behalf of everyone in our communities, we share your sorrow and grief.”


Lauru Women’s Programme, Solomon Islands

“I am currently in Choiseul and I have heard on the news about the terrible events in Christchurch. I hope and pray that you are all okay. My thoughts and prayers are with you.”



VHAK, South India

“We at Voluntary Health Association of Kanyakumari (VHAK) and Neighbourhood Community Network (NCN) are very sorry to hear about the sufferings caused by the earthquake in your place. We are concerned. We are with you in prayers.”


Neythal, South India

“We were shocked to learn that yesterday’s earthquake was one of the worst natural disaster in decades killing many people and destroyed the homes of many. We are of hope that all the members of Christian World Service are safe. We extend our sincere prayers and wishes that the people of New Zealand recover from the shock at the earliest and get back to normalcy.


Ekta, South India

“ We are shocked to learn about the devastating impact of the earthquake at Christchurch. The memory of the previous quake is still fresh in our memory. We are very much concerned about your safety and security and pray to the almighty to give you the courage to face this tragic and most challenging situation. I am still wondering at the wrath of nature on such a calm, quiet and peaceful country! I have no words to express my grief and agony at the sight of some of the visuals that we have access to and my dear friends you are all in my daily prayers. We are in solidarity with you all and I do hope we can overcome this situation with our human support and solidarity.”


KHCP, Bangladesh

“We convey to you our thoughts and sympathy to those in Christchurch and those with friends and family there. We send you our thoughts and prayers at this time of loss and destruction.”


WDRC and FEDWE TEAM, South India

“We are all shocked on watching the TV news and reading in the newspapers about Christchurch. We are very sad about the damages occurred by the bad earthquake and the taking away of so many people’s lives and cutting of all transport means and communication. We pray for all dwellers of Christchurch.”


Women’s Centre, Sri Lanka

“We are shocked and grieved by what we saw on tv about Christchurch. We saw footage of a church collapsing. Also we are saddened by the news that some people are believed to be buried in the rubble. We can only pray for them. And that we do! Our utmost prayers are for your safety!”


YAKKUM Emergency Unit, Indonesia

“We are ACT member from Indonesia and we would like to share our concerns and sympathy for the earthquake affected people in NZ as we were also earthquake survivors when our town, Yogyakarta was badly struck by an earthquake in 2006. We know how terrible it was to experience such shock and loss. We also witnessed how generous NZ was in supporting our people when the tsunami hit Aceh and Nias and an earthquake destroyed Bantul in Yogyakarta. Even though we don’t have much money but still we want to share this contribution from YAKKUM as our token of sympathy and support. With sympathy and prayer.”


Human Rights Foundation, South India

“We read from newspaper and TV reports that there was another devastating earthquake in Christ Church. It was really a shock to us. We do understand that there was severe destruction of homes, offices and loss of lives and livelihoods for thousands of people. Kindly accept our sympathies and if there is any way we can contribute to help end the continued misery and mental agony to the people living in Christchurch kindly let us know.”

Middle East

DSPR, Palestine

“We have been following the news of the after-shocks of the September earthquake in Christchurch which occurred yesterday with devastating effects and loss of human life and injuries.  We want to let you know of our prayers and thoughts at these tragic times in the history of your city and country. We hope and pray that you and all in CWS staff are well. From Jerusalem and the entire Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees we keep you all in our prayers.”


Joint Christian Committee for Social Service, Lebanon

“I really am very sad about all who are losing their lives due to the forces of nature. I pray that you and your colleagues and families are alright and will continue to be so. I can imagine the panic which has overcome every one as we experienced the feeling once in Lebanon , a long time ago.

.....My thoughts and prayers are with you.”



Church of Uganda, Uganda

“I wish to convey to you, our partners at Christian World Service and the people of New Zealand at large, our sincere sympathies for the calamity to befall your country.  ... It is our sincere prayer that the Lord will comfort and strengthen those who have been affected, and that the government and all agencies involved will have the grace to offer the necessary assistance during this perilous time.”Read full letter from Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi


CEPAD, Nicaragua

“Please be assured that we are very concerned for your safety in Christchurch. We watched the news and what we saw made us remember Managua 1972. We are praying for everyone’s safety, for the families of those killed by the earthquake and that you, as a city, recovers soon from this tragedy.”


United Church of Canada,  Canada

“We offer our prayers for all who have died, lost loved ones, and survivors”


ACT Alliance, Geneva

“We have been very much shocked and saddened upon hearing the news of the earthquake hitting New Zealand, and particularly Christchurch. We are relieved, though, to know that you and your staff are safe.   We imagine how much it will now take for you all to recover and get back to normal life, at personal level and at work level. In these difficult times, we would like to assure you of our prayers, thoughts and solidarity, hoping that you and all your staff families remain healthy and safe.

Again, our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we wish you all the necessary strength to overcome this tragedy.In God’s love”


Christian Aid, London

“The news about the Christchurch disaster has been very much on our mind for the past few days. With you, we mourn the loss of loved ones, friends or neighbours and we pray you may all find the strength to rebuild what was lost and to help in the healing of so many lives affected. Rest assured that CWS and the people of Christchurch are in our prayers.”

Our earthquake story

After the first big shock roared through central Christchurch CWS office management staff got up and opened their windows to let in traumatised workers from the scaffolding outside.

When Mandla Dube and Alison Hardie could move they shot to the windows to let in the two earthquake repair inspectors who had been checking repairs from the September earthquake.
“There was a man and a woman out there who we let in as soon as the first shaking stopped.

“We then evacuated the building together with other staff and when we got down I looked up to see that the miracle of the scaffolding holding up had continued,'' says Mandla. Recent film of the area which is still in the “red/red” maximum danger zone shows that the scaffolding is still intact many aftershocks later.


For other staff the trauma was more intensely personal. None more so than one who shall remain nameless for reasons soon to be obvious who had just finished an exercise session across town.
After the September quake and thousands of aftershocks she had developed a very common minor phobia about being caught in the shower in another big one. A fear that came true on February 22 where any previous exertions were instantly excelled by the rapid sprint to the relative safety of the street from the disintegrating gym.

Back on Manchester Street staff assisted passers-by in shock and helped get people out of the damaged CBD. International programmes staffer , Nick Clarke, plunged straight into rescue and crowd control work and after checking his Kaiapoi-based family was okay reporting to the Civil Defence operations centre in the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Over a month later he still has an office there as the liaison officer for the Non Government Organisation Disaster Relief Forum.CWS media officer Greg Jackson is sharing media duties for NDRF with World Vision staff based in Auckland. For full detail on this trail blazing example of co-operation that is getting keen local, national and international interest see  “Kiwi aid experts “working at home” in Christchurch.

Other CWS have ended up with more localised assignments like Church and Community youth officer, Katrina Hill who is working in New Brighton as an advocate cum coordinator for the local community.

CWS national director Pauline McKay reports that her lunch time shopping trip on February 22 turned into a harrowing trip back  through the inner city to check up on staff and building. “Our people are like most people who were there on the day, that is we all have good days and bad days and sometimes both sorts of days all at once,'' she says.

Pauline notes that other staff have carried on keeping the usual business of CWS as functional as can be managed when often key files are totally off limits for the foreseeable future.
“With hindsight the organisation was lucky we had the experience post the September earthquake when we were out of the damaged office for a month to learn how to work without a physical office,'' she says.

“The most impressive thing about CWS is that although the organisation has taken some huge blows this past year we are actually managing to do not only most of our usual work but also take on extra projects like helping anchor the NDRF recovery work here in Christchurch,”' she says.

Finally CWS would like to thank all the supporters and partners here and overseas who have sent us their good wishes and commitment of ongoing support since the February 22nd earthquake.