Heart Therapy: Healing from the Christchurch Quake

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Current MAAT (clinical) student Deborah Green is working with her community.

On February 22, 2011, a violent earthquake struck Christchurch. This catastrophic event smashed buildings, threw massive boulders down hillsides, buried cars in liquid silt. Many lost their lives, many lost their homes and jobs. In the small port town of Lyttelton, my home and the epicentre of the quake, a strong sense of community soon arose from the rubble. Cut off from the city by the closure of the Port Hills tunnel, at a makeshift street café Lytteltonites gathered to drink coffee and tell their quake stories. Amidst this, a few women from Project Lyttelton began to make hearts – symbols of hope and resilience. Each day saw more people joining the gaggle on the rug under an umbrella – old blankets were cut and embroidered with wool and coloured thread and buttons; cake and biscuits circulated; needles and thread and a large bucket of fascinating buttons like assorted jewels were donated. Men and women, mothers and children – shaken, sleepless, fretful – cuddled, chatted and sewed, communing over a simple, unthreatening task that all could master, that quickly produced something lovely to wear or gift to another, that allowed us to mourn our losses, share our hopes, or simply be together in silence.

Jacinda and I expanded this ‘heart therapy’ when Lyttelton West School re-opened. Each lunch-break, surrounded by a cacophony of heart stitchers, we offered love and support to the littlest members of our community. And next week, thanks to a kind donation of art materials by Michele Whitecliffe, I expand this further with arts therapy sessions for all the pupils in the school.



Top: Heart therapy at Lyttelton West School.
Below: Deborah Green with one of her hearts.

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