At 12.51pm on Tuesday 22 February 2011, Martina Barreras lunged towards a table at school as the ground shook vigorously. She was only seven years old and had recently migrated to Christchurch from Maui, Hawaii.
Martina didn’t know it at the time, but she was experiencing one of New Zealand’s worst earthquakes, which sadly killed 185 people and injured several thousand.
“I remember it very vividly, when the earthquake hit everyone screamed and dashed under the tables,” Martina says. “Unfortunately, I could not make it under a table in time and got severe whiplash from dodging a falling light.”
“It took my class 30 minutes to get out of the classroom as the door was jammed during the earthquake. Once I had realised the extent of what had happened outside, I could not contain my emotions and started to fear for the worst.”
It was three hours before Martina could see her family and, when they returned home, they were met with a pile of rubble. Their house had crumbled in the earthquake, leaving them with only a few possessions.
“We left Christchurch a few days later with a backpack each and arrived in Levin. The people there were very giving and donated us clothes, toys, and food. My family and I will never forget this horrific day but will always be grateful for the support everyone gave us at the time.”
While the earthquake was a devastating experience for Martina’s family, she says it is what led her to God.
“During the earthquake I decided to close my eyes and pray. I prayed that I would see my family again and they would be unharmed.
“I couldn’t imagine being alone and, in that moment, I knew I wasn’t because God was with me. I had never prayed before and I didn’t really understand the significance God could have in someone’s life. However, my faith guided me through the earthquake and to the moment I was reunited with my family again.
“I believe that without my faith I would not have made it through the horrible event with my family intact.”
Five years after the earthquake, Martina joined Woodford House. She says they decided on this school because of its values.
“It appeared to be a nurturing and supportive environment that would assist me in my learning and faith.”
Last year Martina was baptised and confirmed in the beautiful Woodford House Chapel.
“After the earthquake I knew God would be with me forever and that has definitely comforted and supported me throughout my journey. I am very glad that I got baptised and confirmed in front of the School because I believe my faith has played a huge role in how I have integrated into Woodford House and become a part of the community.
“Personally, God means a lot to me because God has helped me through some of the toughest things that have happened in my life and I would like to show that I am grateful for everything God has provided me and I find comfort in knowing that God is looking over me and will help guide me through the obstacles yet to come as I move towards a place of absolute concrete faith.”