Do you Care to Know who your Neighbours Are?


who is your neighbour

Who lives over your fence

How long have you lived in your present location and community, days, weeks, months or years and do you care to know who your neighbours are?  Would you know if any of them needed your help because they may have cancer, a disability, depression, need someone to talk to, be elderly, have young children or have no family living in the same city to support them?  Why would you or should you on the other hand even care? 

What happens when disaster strikes you?
We live on a small part of a road with 22 houses surrounding us and recently we found the real value and support of knowing our neighbours, when disaster struck in the form of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake at 4.21am on September 2010 here in Canterbury and Christchurch, New Zealand.  We lost power, so it was dark and cold, and we were unsure of what had happened to our property and to neighbours in the street.  We called out to our neighbour next door as she is living on her own and asked her if she was alright.  She said she was, but shortly after she came over in her pjs and stayed until it was light enough for us to see outside to survey exactly what had happened.  We watched as car lights, one after another, drove up the Dyers Pass Road to the top of the Canterbury Port Hills, which made us wonder if there had been a Tsunami warning that we didn’t know about, as we had no communication with the outside world.  Our nearest news was the car radio and none of us were feeling comfortable enough to go out to listen to that. 

Was everyone safe and how do you find this out?
My husband said that he needed to go down the road to check if his boss’ mother was alright, as she is in her 8o’s and was living on her own in a big older two-storey house and her nearest son and his family were away on holiday in Brisbane, Australia.  He took his torch we told him to be very careful, as the aftershocks were still happening.  He walked out in the pitch black and found that her chimneys had come down over her doorway.  The strangest part about all of this was that town was unusually quiet and at dawn everyone came out from their homes and were walking down the road in their pyjamas looking at the damage to our road, and talking about this frightening experience with their neighbours.  Many had been neighbours for years and didn’t know their neighbours. This surreal event brought us together, communicating with our neighbours and supporting one another.  We were very fortunate with this earthquake to have no loss of life.  It wasn’t the same for the February 22nd 2011 earthquake when many people died in collapsed buildings in the city centre, because this happened at lunchtime.

How prepared are you for disaster?
Are you prepared with survival kits, spare batteries and have radio access?  We found that even though many people had mobile cell phones and dial up telephones, these were of little value because the lines blocked and families could not contact one another to find out if they were safe or not.  We sleep with our phones by our beds, torches on the ready, clothes handy to find and pull on should we need them.  Yet when we have the odd shake in the night, we debate how long it’s going to last and whether we should move towards the door or not.  We now know that houses and homes and businesses do collapse and come down, and getting out of a building can sometimes be safer than staying in it.

How well do you know your neighbours?
How well do you know your neighbour, or how do you get to know your neighbour, and I know I can hear you saying, “I don’t want the neighbours poking their noses into my business!!”  Which would you rather be known as, the caring neighbour or the “don’t know” neighbour?  We have a Neighbourhood Support group operating in our city and down our road.  This principal is a great way to look out for your neighbours especially when disasters like earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis and flooding occurs.  Sometimes you get a little warning, and at other times none at all. 

It is worthwhile getting to know your neighbours for support. Have you been involved in a major disaster and how did you cope?  How long before everything was “back to normal” so to speak for you, for your family, and for your community?  Twelve months on and we still feel the odd shake.  The demolition of the buildings in the city centre of homes and businesses, and around the eastern side of the city and Port Hills are still waiting to happen, so that they can all move forward with sorting their homes and rebuilding our city to a “new Christchurch”.

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