7 September 2011, 15:09
Like all New Zealanders, I was shocked & horrified by the destruction of Christchurch in their recent earthquakes. When the second really big one hit, I was in Iceland, & couldn’t have felt further away. I saw scenes of devastation on the Icelandic news & like everyone else, felt totally helpless & so, so distant.
Christchurch has had two huge earthquakes, but that’s not the last of it. The aftershocks have been constant. In just one day they experienced about 20 earthquakes, & only a few days ago, the region was struck with a 5.0. As you can imagine, the impact this has had on the psyche of those in the area has been quite intense & traumatic. They’re always waiting for the next one. Simply the sound of a truck rumbling down the road can set you on edge, as you brace yourself for what could be another violent earthquake.
So when I received this email from Charlie, a prefect at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, I wanted to help out in any way that I could.
My name is Charlie Jackson, I am a student in little old Christchurch, New Zealand! I have followed your website, your self love journey and your wonderful frolicking around the world for a number of years now, and I really look up to you, you are such an inspiration to me.
I’m going to sound absolutely mad, because I am aware that you are living in America and have a crazy busy life, but it can’t hurt to put the thought out into the world, particularly into yours!
I am a prefect and passionate student of the Arts at my school, St
Margaret’s College. Our school has suffered a lot through the past through months with our surreal disasterous situation. We have lost a number of buildings, many students and staff have lost their homes, and some are now without loved ones too. I feel that while we are still pottering along with our daily life as if we are okay, we aren’t really doing so well. The psychological effects of this sort of event are tough, and a big group (like our school community) can sometimes be forgotten, because it appears that we are fine. I want to help my school and the beloved girls in it, and I am trying to think of ways to do this.
This is why I am emailing you. I wonder if you could help in any way, because you are such an inspirational person, and a lot of your radical self love content could be relevant for these girls, especially in these hard times. I have this little dream. In the perfect world, we would somehow find a way to fly you over to your home country, and then to Christchurch, and you could meet the lovely girls that make up my school, and talk to them as a group. I would be happy to find sponsorship etc to make this happen, if you thought it was at all possible.
As a ‘back up plan’ I wonder if you would agree to do a skype interview with me, and possibly with the school (if we could set it up), so that the girls could still get a taste of your passion for life and positivity.
I really hope you can consider this little proposal, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you for your precious time
Charlie Jackson xx
How could anyone say no that?! I replied immediately & said I’d see what I could do. Then a little bit of magic happened. Tourism NZ emailed, & offered to fly me to New Zealand! TA-DA! That trip officially ended on Tuesday night, so I booked myself a flight, & at 8.30am, I boarded a very small (!) plane in Nelson, bound for Christchurch.
Charlie met me at the airport with a huge grin & a hug, & gave me a tour around her broken but beloved city. Almost the entire central city is cordoned off. The streets are riddled with potholes. Empty shops sit, full of stock, unable to be reopened. Entire livelihoods were destroyed in minutes, & for those whose businesses are still standing, all they can do is wait & see if their shop — & everything inside it — will be demolished. The waiting & not knowing must be terrible.
But even so, everywhere we went we were met with smiles. Construction workers laughed & shot water cannons in the background of our photos (stay tuned for those)! There are roadworks everywhere: the repair effort is courageous & ongoing, & very active. I had gotten the impression from the news that Christchurch had been abandoned, or that it was a shattered city. I was delighted to find that that is not the case. It is full of people with purpose, doing what they can for the city they love.
Charlie told me about the Student Volunteer Army at University of Canterbury, where thousands of students have offered up their time to do important but unglamorous things like shovel silt. She also told me about her mum, who gives 3 or 4 days a week to visit Darlington, an area which was badly affected, to help distribute food & clothing, & to lend an ear to anyone who just needs someone to talk to.
The world is absolutely bursting with ordinary people doing extraordinary things, & Christchurch is a stellar example of this.
Going to St Margaret’s College was absolutely fantastic. The girls & staff are total treasures.
I spoke to a huge group of girls in an enormous marquee, which is where they’re now having assemblies — their hall was destroyed. Their school is fragmented & makeshift classrooms are having to be shared & rotated. The library books which weren’t ruined are mostly housed in a huge shipping container outside their new, interim library: a prefabricated building which is about one millionth of the size of what they’re used to. But still, they persevere. The senior girls were in the midst of exams, putting together portfolios, choreographing fashion shows & studying for art history. Life has carried on. It’s absolutely incredible.
...& what a marvellous group of girls I met! It’s official: I love St Margaret’s College! Speaking to & with the girls was absolutely sensational. They are such an incredibly intelligent, articulate, resourceful & generous group of young women. I was extremely impressed by their thoughtfulness & good nature.
Honestly, I was a little nervous speaking to them because I always remember that at my school, the speakers were all so tremendously dull that no one ever had any questions, & there was very little interaction! It wasn’t “cool” to put your hand up or ask a question. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. The girls at St Margaret’s College were so eager & excited, asking me about everything, from radical self love, to where I met my husband, to what to do if your parents don’t back your dreams.
Charlie invited me there to inspire the girls, but they inspired me right back. I was so thrilled & encouraged just by meeting & talking with them. They have been through so much more than most of us would ever have to deal with, & they’re still smiling, taking care of one another & themselves, too.
It was such an honour to be asked to speak there & I really hope that my being there gave the girls some inspiration to go out & live their passions, & to go against the grain as much as possible! I’d love to go back sometime soon.
I love my ginger-haired girls!
Yammering away afterwards!
Mega-love time… I have to say a huge thank you to Chris Wyeth, associate principal, for giving us the go-ahead, but of course, the most mammoth amount of gratitude & appreciation has to go to Charlie Jackson. ENORMOUS love, hugs & kisses to you!!! This girl is the real deal: smart, genuine, compassionate & gorgeous. She cares so much for her school & the people around her — I was so incredibly inspired by spending a few hours in her company! She is such a star & I can’t wait for us to cross paths again!
I’m sending so much love to Christchurch. You’ve had hard times but you will overcome. In time the city will be completely different — rebuilt & strong, modern & vibrant. Kiwis all over the world have your back & we are gunning for your success. We love you! Kia kaha!
With Charlie, my new Christchurch bestie!
P.S. Rebuilding Christchurch is estimated to cost between $15-16 billion, making it New Zealand’s most expensive disaster of all time. You can help by donating to the Red Cross here, & you can donate directly to St Margaret’s College here.