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Lyttelton, portal to Canterbury’s historic past, a vibrant sustainable community creating a living future

The Lyttelton Time Bank played a vital part in the local response to the recent New Zealand quakes

The Lyttelton Time Bank played a vital part in the local response to the recent New Zealand quakes. This report is from the ground.

If anyone had any doubts about the huge role that Time Banking can play in holding a community together, turn to the experience of the people of Lyttelton.

Lyttelton was at the epicentre of the recent devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and is Christchurch’s port town (3000). Its harbour sits on the inside of an extinct volcano linked to the ocean. It is beautiful.

On 4th September 2010 a 7.1 earthquake caused much damage –  in both the city and port. It felt miraculous as there was no loss of life.

Although we were still experiencing aftershocks, we were starting to move forward. Then the February 22nd shock rocked us. It was a 6.3 quake, but closer to the built-up area and shallower. The results are huge. And this time there was significant loss of life.

For the Time Bank, the first major earthquake was like a trial run. We learnt much from it and took those learnings into the second.

This was the situation when the 4th September earthquake struck. With not so much damage in Lyttelton compared with Christchurch city, all Civil Defence personnel were deployed into the city. But there were needs in Lyttelton all the same. The volunteer fire brigade, ambulance and Health Centre asked the Time Bank to start co-ordinating volunteers, and we did. Teams of people helped take down dangerous chimneys, called up older people in the community to check if all was OK, and provided a drop in centre for people to simply touch base with other humans.

This worked well, and our Time Bank membership levels increased markedly – at a guess 12-15%.

However, a small amount of ill feeling emerged between the Civil Defence team and the Time Bank as the media talked about how great the Time Bank was. We started healing those links, looking closely at how the whole community works together in such a situation. By the time the second, more devastating earthquake hit, people were already thinking about how things might be done differently. The first earthquake was like a wake up call to get our systems improved.

I am writing this just as we are moving out of the emergency phase of the 2nd earthquake. This time aroundwe did everything so much better, with a seamless link between the official emergency services and Time Bank. Time Bank has also acted as a conduit so people can find out what is happening and where. There have been bulletins coming out from the Time Bank sometimes 4 times a day!

Some highlights of a Time Bank that exist in normal times but are significant in times of disaster include:

  • You know what skills you have available in the community
  • You have rapid ways of accessing them
  • People are already practised in using such a connecting system – it kicks in fast
  • There is a strong human element, it builds a sense of community where compassion and love become the norm
  • It allows all people to be involved
  • Above all, it creates hope
In the midst of it all life continues. A group of Time Bankers – not trading, just living the ethos of TBing making hand stitched heart brooches. 100s of these hearts have been made by the initiators and all the people that sit down, stitch, and make hearts for themselves and others. Ministers of the Crown, sports celebraties, Lyttelton people and crumbled Lyttelton buildings all wear our hearts visibly. The Time Banking system is influencing the psyche of the whole community.

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South Korea learns from Lyttelton

Marg Korea

When time bank organisers in South Korea heard of a conference being organised to talk about empowering communities in the wake of disaster they suggested Margaret Jefferies be invited to speak on the experiences with disaster in Lyttelton/Christchurch.

The host of the forum was looking for a case where victims actively participated as agents of social reconstruction and healing.
Margaret travelled with Project Lyttelton board member Anne Mackay in November to attend the conference and visit time banks in South Korea.

The conference was hosted by the 4.16 Foundation, and it addressed “Contemplating Victims Rights in a Risk Society”

“The 4.16 Foundation has formed around the Seawol,” Margaret said.

“They wanted to look at “How can we prevent disasters, how can we manage them better?’,” she said.

Many in the audience were families of the children killed in the 2014 Sewol tragedy and were new to the concept and practice of time banking.
The first day was visits to the memorial sites, the second day was the presentations and the third day was questions and answers.
The overloaded South Korean ferry MV Seawol capsized on April 16, 2014 with 476 passengers on board. Three hundred and four people died including 250 children who were out on a school trip.
Many families of victims still feel angry at the inadequate response and lack of accountability on all levels.
Margaret presented a talk, ‘Recent disasters in New Zealand and how we are coping in a humane way’, on the role the Time Bank played in the aftermath of the earthquakes. She also spoke on her work with the Christchurch Muslim community about moving forward together in an empowered way after the March 15 terrorist attack. Read Margaret’s talk here
Margaret said the the people were beautiful and the memorials were very moving.
“There were people from other disasters there too. It sounds heavy but it wasn’t really. It was about seeing patterns and overcoming them,” Margaret said.
Margaret welcomed the interest shown in time banking at the conference.
“It was really good having Anne there too with her legal background, particularly with questions around some of the legal aspects of the disasters,” Margaret said.
The rest of the trip was meeting with people from time banks in Seoul and Gumi.
The time banks in South Korea have been set up to work with specific communities.
In Seoul the church based time bank focuses a lot of its efforts around people with special needs, the church community has also pooled money to buy a house for youth accommodation.
“It’s very practical, big stuff really,” Margaret said.
The time bank in Gumi is associated with a senior club. It’s very active with around 1800 members.
“A scheme in South Korea sees seniors paid for up to 15 hours a month if they want to continue work, and if they do more they can do it through the time bank,” Margaret said.
“It’s really interesting seeing different time banks using the same tools different ways.”