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Center News: New Zealand Learning Styles Centre

April 26, 2011

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Now that we have power back I have been trying to catch up with friends and those who have sent messages. I am pleased to say that I and my family are all okay but unfortunately we have people we know who have not made it.
March 1st should have been an exciting day for us. After two years of hard work we were due to open our first early learning centre but it stands empty as we have a National State of Emergency. Our city was hit with a shallow 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, which brought the city to its knees. It was a disaster beyond comprehension that has left hundreds missing, scores dead, and ruined countless lives. Hopes of finding people still alive have faded. Our central city is damaged beyond repair. So many lives, so much loss, the sorrow is almost too much to bear. But we are the lucky ones. We can build our city, our homes, and our lives again.

I was taking a professional development course on Programme Planning on the 3rd floor of one of the high rise buildings in the square when the earthquake hit. We had stopped for lunch and were chatting about how we all catered for different children in our centres when the building started shaking. After the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on September 5th last year we were used to the aftershocks but this was huge. We all dived under the boardroom table that we were sitting around and watched out the window as the building next to us that had been damaged last time started to crumble. As soon as the shaking stopped we fled to a staircase and made our way down in the dark and through water to the square to see stone and rubble all around us. The Cathedral spire had crumbled and with each aftershock more glass and stones, etc. came down. I waited with the teachers on the course trying to ring family to check if they were okay and to let them know I was unharmed. We checked on those around us and hoped the tales of multi-storey buildings coming down were just stories. There was no loss of life in the first earthquake as it happened early in the morning when most were at home in bed.

After around 30 minutes the aftershocks had reduced in size and frequency so we decided to run out to the botanical gardens and through them to the suburbs. We went past many injured people and shops and buildings that were rubble. There were many cars flattened but we had no idea how bad it was at that stage. I finally got hold of my husband and daughter about two hours after the quake. I didn't hear from my son for four hours. He worked in the city centre and his building was closed for a month after the September quake as it was unstable. He had managed to scramble out over the rubble but his keys and cell phone etc. were still in the building. He sent a message to his partner from a stranger's cell phone but didn't sign it so we hoped the "I'm okay" was from him. I was really relieved to catch up with them all and give them a hug.

We arrived home to find everything we own on the floor either broken or covered with oil, wine, etc. so spent last week cleaning – not an easy task without power and water. It was unnerving to think the shake was strong enough for the under bench oven to be tipped out on to the floor and all the windows and doors to be forced open. We had very little damage last time but our 10 year old brick home has very large cracks outside and has been propped up with timbers, some pretty major damage to the plaster in all our rooms, and many of the doors no longer close. But we are lucky as we are all still alive and able to rebuild.

I have been writing a course for Kings Education for teachers from overseas, particularly from the Philippines to retrain in New Zealand. Unbelievably the multi-storey building housing the college collapsed and many of my colleagues and their students did not make it out. There have in fact been people from 20 different countries who had been visiting or studying here who were killed so it truly has become an international disaster.

Our centre, Marshlands Nest, was not damaged and will open soon. I will keep you all informed of progress. It has been a labour of love creating areas both inside and outside, for children to cater for all their learning styles. We will have photos up of the centre and different learning areas on our website www.nests.co.nz within the next few weeks. I had hoped to see you all again this year in Tulsa but will work towards bringing my daughter, who is the Director of our school, to complete her training next year.

Cathy Hide
New Zealand Learning Styles