There was not a dry eye in the house at Kiri Te Kanawa after residents were handed special messages from concerned family after connection was restored in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.
The village was out of contact after the full force of the Cyclone struck on February 13, but a system was rigged up to get messages through to the village so that even though they couldn’t phone, families could keep in touch via printed messages.
Ryman head office staff let relatives of residents know the Kiri Te Kanawa community was fine after satellite phones were flown in by helicopter and the village was connected.
With communications patchy in the wake of the cyclone, Ryman kept in touch with relatives with email and Facebook updates and offered to pass any messages on.
Activities and Lifestyle Coordinator Janice Baker and Serviced Apartments coordinator Sam Leahy had the job of handing on the messages to residents, and that’s when the tears started flowing.
“There were about 12 of us having a cup of tea when Sam handed a family message to Nola, who is 102 and was desperate to hear,’’ Janice says.
“There were tears all round when we saw her reaction, it was such a massive relief for Nola to hear from her family.”
Also pleased to keep in touch were Anne Yee, Colin Sowerby and Ann Milton-Tee who all received messages of support from family.
Janice said it was difficult for residents who had family in other affected areas but had no way of getting in touch to find out how they had got on. Some were desperately concerned.
“The problem was that we were all just as worried about our families in other places, as they were about us.
“We had staff coming to work who were displaced from their homes. They were staying with other people and having to clean up their own homes. But they all came to work with a smile and pitched in. I think they were amazing!’’
In Janice’s case, she had lost contact with her daughter and two grandsons, whose house was threatened in Hastings at the height of the storm.
“The last time I heard from my daughter she said the trees had gone, there was water getting in and she thought the roof was going to go. I said ‘well, if the roof is going to go, you’d better get out’, and that was it, no more contact. She’s very resilient and resourceful, but I was worried, and it turned out she was one of the lucky ones.”
With schools closed the village also took in the children of staff, and organised activities to keep them occupied.
Also tough on residents has been seeing the devastation to the area they love, but they are full of gratitude for village manager Penny Forrester and the team who looked after them.
And there was plenty of happy feedback from relatives, with one relative writing: “All credit to Ryman. My dad is in Kiri Te Kanawa in Gisborne. They have been outstanding at giving us info, organising delivery if supplies and passing on our messages. So glad he was not on his own.’’