Rising from the Dust

On the 22nd of February 2011, Christchurch was struck by a 6.3magnitude earthquake that took 184 lives and left much of the city in ruins. A year later, Christchurch continues to shake with daily aftershocks, but against all odds many local businesses are back up and running, including the National School of Aesthetics. 
 
Erica Kent caught up with NASA Director of Operations, Scott Fack, and was touched by his story of tenacity, and having the guts to stay and be part of the new Christchurch. As told to BeautyNZ.

“On the day of the big earthquake, we were all at work. We usually break at 1pm, so some of the students were leaving when the quake struck at 12.51pm. Our area had some of the highest ground accelerations in the city, and I think only four people in our building were left standing.

“I was holding onto a doorframe when I was thrown across the room and collided with the doorframe on the other side, which left me with no feeling in the lower parts of my hands for two months. Our CEO Noel was thrown to ground twice and injured his back. He was in a wheelchair for a bit then had a walking stick, but he’s OK now.

“We were lucky because our building used to belong to the police, and it had been strengthened to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 8 plus. Its sister buildings were not strengthened and were abandoned after the February quake.

“There were a few minor injuries, but everyone was safe and made their way home. Some of our students lost friends, others lost their cars or houses; one student and her family had to sleep in a tent for weeks. One of our tutors drove into a liquefaction hole and lost her car. Luckily she got out, and some high school students gave her a ride.”

“We managed to find temporary classrooms, and by mid-March we were given the all clear to come back in and resume training. Unfortunately, then the June earthquake happened and our building was red stickered because some of the decorative concrete panels had collapsed. All our equipment and other stuff were locked in, so we were unable to operate from that building.

“Don (Director of Education) and the team and I got together, and we ordered what equipment we could afford. We managed to find space in an old working man’s club, it was a tiny room so we split the students up and some came in the morning, some in the afternoon.

“With the new intake in August, we managed to rent a spare room from BeautySense, and during that time Noel, Don, Jacqui (Student Liaison Officer) and I looked for new premises. It took a long time before we found something suitable, which was an old printing warehouse - the printers had to move out of Christchurch because they had to reset their printers each time there was an earthquake. We remodelled the back section and put classrooms and plumbing in, which took until mid-December to complete. We had to replace a lot of our equipment. Overall, it cost us about $400,000 to rebuild and reequip, some of which was covered by insurance and some not.

“The irony is, now our premises are better than when we started. We have six practical classrooms, a storage area, our Great Hall multimedia area for large presentations, a lecture room with interactive whiteboard, and wireless connection throughout the school. Our previous premises were like a rabbit warren because we had to work with what we inherited. The new school was built from scratch so it is exactly as we want it.

“It has also been strengthened throughout, and the interior classrooms are built to new earthquake standards. Now when there are strong earthquakes, the ceiling is independent of the walls, so nothing should collapse. Don was here for the 5.8 earthquake on the 23rd of December, and there was very little damage, so that’s great.”

“There are still strong earthquakes, and although some of us are used to them now, other people are still scared. We had students in counselling last year, and because the ongoing earthquake clusters are stressful, massage and therapeutic treatments are really important to help people relax. We are known for our popular clinic days, but we haven’t been able to do them since the earthquake. We just announced that they will launch again in February and the demand has been huge. On windy days, we have liquefaction and dust all around the place, so facials are good for taking care of the skin in light of that too.

“People from outside Christchurch often ask us ‘is it safe?’. It is really safe. The shaking has eased up a lot; it’s not aftershock after aftershock anymore. In the last two days there have been a few magnitude 3s which just feel like a little bit of shaking – nothing too bad. Media keep reporting that people are leaving and tourists don’t come anymore, but that’s not true. We have lost 6,000 people, so there are still 390,000 of us plus tourists.

“It was very important for us, especially as educators, to give leadership and help people start to rebuild their lives. By giving structure and routine through education, we provide normalcy in at least some part of their lives. We felt demoralised for a little while, but then you pick up the pieces and move on.”

The National School of Aesthetics opened again on 16th January 2012. BeautyNZ wishes Scott, Don, Noel, Jacqui and all the NASA tutors and students the very best. Kia kaha.

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