For 12 hours each day, Suzy stands or sits in position at the entrance to an exercise area in one of Christchurch’s managed isolation facilities.
“I get the privilege of spending my days with our guests,” says Suzy.
“I love being able to make people smile and laugh. And to know that at the end of it, they’re safe, they’ve kept us safe and they’ve done us and New Zealand a huge service.”
Dressed in required PPE, she greets all the returning New Zealanders at the hotel. She is the person many guests will see each day, when they want to get moving outdoors.
“They’re not just room numbers,” says Suzy.
“I treat people like I would like to be treated. I learn their names and then I can establish a connection. I ask questions, find out little things about them. It’s just about showing an interest and caring.”
Suzy hasn’t always been a security guard. After she was made redundant from her hardware store job during the pandemic, she was asked if she would be interested in security work. She then got posted at the managed isolation facility (MIF). She’s now making a difference in the lives of all those returning kiwis as a “masked hero”.
All Right? first learnt about Suzy, when Max and Kara Phillips shared their love story. Kara recalled the advice she had received from ‘Suzy the security guard’ on day two of her stay in the MIF.
“She asked me ‘how often is it that you don’t have to think about work for two weeks’. She told me to give myself permission to rest and to surrender to it,” says Kara.
It’s this message that has been resonating with all those guests lucky enough to meet Suzy – the humble and kind security guard.
“I’ve been giving it out a lot. I ask them ‘how many times in your life do you sit down when you’re so busy and say you would love to have a week where you don’t have to do anything’.”
“This time in isolation is a chance to have that long shower, that bubble bath and read that book you’ve always wanted to read.”
It’s advice Suzy is also learning to give herself, as a “working Mum and wife”.
“I’ve been told I don’t know how to stop. So I’ve said it to myself. We don’t know how to self care anymore – it has gone out the window and there’s all this stress everywhere. Yet you need to look after yourself before you can look after others.”
Suzy hears the stories of many of our returning New Zealanders and is all too aware of the stressful situations many have come from or are preparing to face.
“It has been hard hearing those stories – and there have been times when you just want to give someone a hug. I really feel for these people who are going through so much and I can’t do much for them. But if I can make them smile or laugh, then that’s something.”
Suzy has noticed that many people are apprehensive about isolating initially, because of what they’ve read or seen in the mainstream media but their feelings change as they move through their quarantine.
“It’s that unknown of what to expect.”
Suzy enjoys going through the experience with each guest – even counting down and getting excited for all those that complete their quarantine.
“That is the only down fall is once they leave the hotel we never know how they get on. I wish everyone well and all the best once they leave, as that is the end of my chapter in their lives.”