Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Tapuwae principal Arihia Stirling saw her students wading through waist-deep waters on Friday, carrying their younger siblings on their shoulders.
As Stuff reports, she saw them picking up old photos and family treasures that had been swept away in the Auckland floods.
Her community already struggles with homelessness but even more students were forced out of their houses after contaminated waters surged through their front and back doors.
Schools were closed this week for safety reasons but, as they begin to reopen, educators have their work cut out for them.
She is one of the many south Auckland community leaders who have been working tirelessly to keep whānau safe from the ongoing impacts of Auckland’s storm.
“Yes, [the closures] will impact learning, but the main thing now will be checking on the wellness and well-being of our children and their whānau,” she said.
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Tapuwae families who were affected by the flooding are currently finding refuge in the school's marae.
Over the weekend, the school showers were made available to anyone in need of a place to shower and dry off, and Stirling collaborated with a charity to deliver meals to hungry families.
“KidsCan [has] bought six pallets of kai: home bake dinners that can be popped straight into the microwave or oven, homemade cookies, chocolate cakes and basics like rice,” she said.
Stirling pushed for the placement of skip bins all across Māngere so that the locals might start to share what was still salvageable.
However, Stirling noted that meeting those essential needs was just the beginning.
Stirling is requesting greater funds and help for communities so they can respond to inquiries regarding insurance and financial aid.
May Road School principal Lynda Stuart has also followed suit. The school is not an official evacuation site, but families are still sheltering in its halls.
“We’ve partnered with the New Zealand Ethnic Women’s Trust to support people who have been affected by the floods,” she said.
“For some people it’s meant providing some accommodation and for others it’s just been a place to come and talk.
“It looks different on different days depending on the need,” she said.
Stuart said she’d spoken with families who were suffering from the storm’s destruction.
“It’s heartbreaking. They’ve lost their homes, and it’s going to take time to build,” she said.
As the school year started, Stuart was getting ready to provide more pastoral support for her students.
“We know people will be coming back to school with varying degrees of how they’ve been impacted.
“We look at the needs of each child and their families and we’ll reach out to provide the very best.”
Stuart said the work was just beginning.