Over the moon they are in the cloud

As part of a project to make Christchurch more resilient, Red Cross is helping community organisations be better prepared for disasters. One of these organisations is Stopping Violence Services, which works to rehabilitate perpetrators of domestic violence.

When the first earthquake rattled the South Island on 4 September 2010, Christchurch community organisation Stopping Violence Services (SVS), lost their workplace. The organisation, which rehabilitates perpetrators of domestic violence, relocated to another building, only to lose that in the February 2011 quake.

“We didn’t have a robust database, nor a good website, and we had a physical server. It was the perfect storm,” CEO Paul Shamy recalls. “We are an essential service for our clients. We need to be back up and running as soon as possible after an event such as an earthquake.”

The lack of good systems made it a hard task to continue the service immediately after the earthquakes. For example, one staff member was dealing with a male perpetrator referred by the Ministry of Justice just before the quakes struck. His family was very stressed due to the quakes and having a paper-based database and a physical server stuck in an earthquake-damaged building meant there was no way to find out more about the client's background. This made it extremely difficult to make an informed decision on the likelihood of further domestic violence.

Incidence of domestic family violence soared after the quakes, and demand for SVS’s services grew exponentially. Now, almost seven years after the first earthquake, SVS’s 30 staff see approximately 200 clients a week.

SVS wanted to be better prepared for the next emergency and worked with Red Cross on business continuity planning. It is part of a Red Cross project to make Christchurch more resilient to future events and helping community organisations, especially those working with vulnerable people, be better prepared for emergencies. For SVS that meant receiving financial support to set up a reliable database, developing a new website and undertaking business continuity planning which included moving files to the cloud.

“For community organisations like SVS,” Michael Donoghue, Red Cross Recovery Manager says, “it is often a struggle to find funding for these kinds of very necessary tools. This was a really good way we could help future-proof an organisation working to reduce domestic violence in the community.”

Through a revamped website with secure client login, SVS are now trialling staff setting tasks with their youth clients, including safety planning, when they cannot physically meet. This will keep everyone in the community safer.

“I have worked in much bigger organisations and in business but this is the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve had,” Paul says. “There is the constant struggle for funding, but the Red Cross support was a godsend.”

“With the cloud set-up we are now independent of the physical location. It’s made us a more robust organisation. It takes the pressure off staff and they can concentrate on their real work.”