The Queenstown community is banding together to help both migrants and Kiwis in serious need because of the effects of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
“One of the fruits of Covid has been seeing the community band together to support one another,” says the Corps Officer and Director of Community Ministries at the Queenstown Salvation Army, Lt Andrew Wilson.
Social agencies have formed stronger relationships to support those struggling and at a wider societal level, people such as neighbours and workmates are checking in on each other.
This community has really stood up to the challenge to look after one another,” Andrew says.
He explains that almost six months ago when New Zealand went into a nationwide lockdown to prevent the sometimes-deadly virus spreading, several local agencies began collaborating to care for those in need. Happiness House, Baskets of Blessing, Volunteer South and Citizens Advice Bureau are some of those agencies.
At this stage, those in need were mostly migrants working in Queenstown who were stranded because of border closures, cancelled flights and job losses in the internationally renowned tourist town.
Food, winter clothing, bedding and tenancy and immigration advice were given, and food was delivered to those who’d received Civil Defence emergency food vouchers but couldn’t visit the supermarket themselves.
Addressing immediate needs
By early May, the Queenstown Salvation Army was supplying as many services in a week as it usually does in three months.
“There was a quite substantial increase in need.”
The immediate welfare need was so high that the team which provides intensive social support had to put its work on hold. However, since New Zealand returned to less strict Covid-19 prevention measures in mid-May, this has changed.
Andrew says that locally, the Red Cross is now looking after the migrants and other social agencies are liaising to help mostly Kiwis in need.
The demand for mental health support has increased during Covid-19 Alert Levels 2 and 1, so from mid-May onwards, and other social support is also required.
The agencies are mainly helping New Zealanders who are too asset-rich to access Ministry of Social Development support, he says. For example, a contractor may have owned an extra vehicle and so is not eligible for Government assistance.
Before the Covid-19 crisis, some Queenstown residents were already living “from pay cheque to pay cheque” because of the town’s high living costs, including for rent and properties.
Because of the crisis, some people are suffering reduced work hours or workloads, such as contractors who’ve lost clients.
They are falling below the income they need to survive, Andrew says. While some landlords have reduced rents for struggling tenants, other landlords may be “mum and dad investors” who gained income from a boarder or Airbnb customers.
This income has often disappeared. With the effects of Covid-19 on the local economy, by late June about 6000 people were estimated to have left Queenstown in six months, thus dramatically lowering its base population.
A variety of services
The help agencies are offering Kiwis includes the Salvation Army’s financial mentoring programme, counselling and Positive Lifestyle Programme, which is eight modules assisting people to build resilience and stand more firmly on their own feet.
The modules include self-awareness, grief and loss, assertiveness, anger management and goal-setting.
Recently, this programme was fully booked within two weeks of it being advertised in the community, he says.
Participants come “from all walks of life” and range from those who are “down and out” to people whose perspective on life has altered as a result of the Covid-19 situation.
Andrew shares a heart-warming story about a migrant family in which the father had lost his job and lockdown had put strain on relationships.
The man volunteered with the Salvation Army partly to gain some breathing space and also as something to do. The organisation supported the family with food parcels and financial mentoring.
When the father heard about a job in Invercargill, Andrew’s team ensured all was okay regarding immigration and the man has now moved to Invercargill and has work.
Just one of the stories of hope to emerge from challenging circumstances.
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For further information:
About the Queenstown Salvation Army