There has been some heart warming feedback to the North Waikato Combined Emergency Operations Centre, with Civil Defence and council staff across the region working with volunteer organisations to support those in need during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Hundreds of calls have been received in less than two weeks, says Paul Blewman, one of four shift controllers at the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) formed when Waikato District Council and Hamilton City Council joined forces to co-ordinate community support.
Around 60 calls a day are being made to the Waikato Freephone 0800 800 405, assisting people struggling to get food, groceries, or other household items.
“We’ve had some heart-warming feedback through the phone lines, emails and in person. One family of overseas visitors had nowhere to stay and were looked after at one of our freedom camping sites. Waikato District Council building inspectors were looking after the site and the family gave them a hand-written card saying how they felt welcomed, supported and how the kiwi community greeted them with warmth and smiles.
“We’ve got a sign up in the EOC that says we’re here for the wellbeing of everyone in our community. It’s moments like those that give all the staff a lift and bring home to the teams that the work they do is actually changing the way a family or an individual will feel that day.”
He said the way in which the Waikato community rallied together is inspiring and humbling.
“The majority of the calls are for food assistance, as well as nappies, clothing and accommodation. We have great support from community houses and service groups and work closely with them to see where the closest or quickest support is available.”
The 0800 800 405 number doesn’t replace other government helplines and services, but where a need is identified the EOC can refer people to the right agency if it’s not something they can assist with immediately.
“People may not need the support right now, but we encourage people in the Waikato to note down the number and share it with family, friends or neighbours who may want support down the track.”
Needs are not just physical or financial. The uncertainty and experience of lockdown can impact different people in different ways, and emotional responses such as anxiety, loneliness and fear are not uncommon. If people want to talk these through or simply just want some social contact they can Freephone or text the Ministry of Health’s 24-hour support line on 1737.
The EOC is not just about support for residents; teams at the centre provide logistics support for the establishment of community-based testing centres, managed the creation of isolation sites for freedom campers, communicate regional and local public safety messaging and work closely with staff at both councils as they deliver essential services.
- For more information on business or other support services or the health response to Covid-19 visit here.