The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Earthquake Liaison and Support Advisor for school leaders appointed

Media Image Credits: 
Photo: Christchurch Catholic Education Office
Event date: 
08 Jul 2011

A Liaison and Support Advisor has been appointed to help principals and teachers in Catholic schools living in post-earthquake Christchurch. Karen Payne, principal of St Mary's School, Hokitika, has been seconded to the position for the rest of the year.

The role has been funded by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand in partnership with the New Zealand Catholic Education Office and the Christchurch Catholic Education Office, where Karen is based.

Mike Nolan of the Christchurch Catholic Education Office says the adviser's role is 'a sensitive one that explores unchartered waters'. Ms Payne will provide additional support to help school leaders better cope in unprecedented times, remain positive while dealing with uncertain personal and organisational circumstances, and constructively deal with personal stress.

Ms Payne grew up in eastern Christchurch, and has provided post-quake support to children and grandchildren still living there.     'I feel I can appreciate the pressures and anxieties people are facing, yet hopefully, I can bring fresh eyes and listening ears and practical support to teachers and children,' she says.

She will be sitting with people, listening to their stories and together planning a positive way forward.  

'No one can predict the challenge that lies ahead, she says. 'I need to stay positive, and be a friendly, welcoming critical friend to many who are coping with their own personal loss and professional challenges. We don't know the depth of what we are dealing with. The long term impact is not just about material possessions and property, the emotional impact on people from this trauma will vary significantly.'

Caritas has also supported Christchurch projects providing thermal underwear for the most vulnerable; improvised emergency toilets; and the Stormbirds emotional support programme for children and teenagers. It is working with partners such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, Rangiora Community Cares and Christchurch diocesan organisations. Caritas Director Mike Smith and Humanitarian Programmes Officer Mark Mitchell will be visiting Christchurch next week to liaise with current partners and scope out new programmes to assist Christchurch recovery. Caritas has raised over $900,000 for Christchurch earthquake recovery, including contributions from Caritas' sister organisations overseas.

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