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What businesses can do to help support Christchurch and the Muslim community this week

  • Opinion
  • March 19, 2019
  • Rosie Collins
What businesses can do to help support Christchurch and the Muslim community this week

As many New Zealanders go back to work for the first time today since Friday’s attacks, feelings of anger, sadness, numbness, apprehension, and confusion will be shared around the country. Rosie Collins is the managing director of Step Changers, a registered charity working to normalise corporate social responsibility in New Zealand. In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, she shares three ways businesses can help both their staff and the wider Muslim and Christchurch community this week.

Many managers and business owners will be wanting to help Christchurch this week, as well as help their staff through what has been an emotionally raw and fraught time for New Zealanders near and far. This will be eventually balanced with a need to ‘get back to normal’ too, although we know deep down that ‘normal’ will never be the same again. 

This is a list of ways your business might consider helping Christchurch and your team get through these next few days and weeks: 

1. Check in with your staff this week 

Monday will be weird, and Tuesday probably will be too. With a variety of feelings being expressed and contained as Kiwis come to terms with the attacks, it’s a really important time to be checking in and acknowledging the magnitude of what has happened. Put some time aside to check in today, and then again later this week and in the weeks to follow. Although things may appear to return to normal quickly, talking about recovery as a team will support a sense of trust and collective strength. Come up with a plan together for how your team want to get back to normal this week, and be aware that some staff will be more affected by the news than others. Encourage your staff to make use of hotlines (you can call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counselor) if they need someone to talk to anonymously about what’s happened, and make use of wellness budgets if these are established in your businesses. Consider offering free counselling for anyone that might need it in the coming weeks.  

2. Donate goods

We’ve heard stories already of businesses giving free meals to first responders over the weekend, and we still need this spirit now. Discuss with your team whether the goods you sell might be useful to the families affected. Remember, the goods need to be quality and necessary – there’s no point donating bottled water, for example, since the taps in Christchurch are still running. But if you can offer supermarket vouchers, halal food, distractions for kids affected by the attacks, or mental health support through your business, then this is the time to consider donating.

3. Donate money

If you don’t have goods to give that can help, consider giving dollars. A Givealittle page has been set up to contribute directly to the families affected by the attacks on Friday. Try to lead on donations if you’re in a better financial position than staff. It sets the tone for the rest of your team to come together, and it’s also a good principle for corporate giving in general. 

4. Volunteer via Collaborate

If you don’t have goods but you do have time, there might be ways to volunteer some staff time to support the recovery process. In normal times, we use the app Collaborate to source most of our volunteers from. Collaborate is running a dedicated hub for volunteers in Christchurch, matching people with opportunities to give support. 

5. Give nothing to racism

Friday’s terrorist attack arose from a culture that has tolerated white supremacy, anti-immigrant sentiments and Islamophobia for many years. Now is time to mark a turn in how we treat migrant communities, and to reconsider what our businesses could be doing to play a bigger part in welcoming migrants to New Zealand. The “They Are Us” hashtag is recognising that the Muslim community is our community – we’re all Kiwis together. This only becomes the reality if we’re all working and making efforts socialising together too. 

Finally, ask your team how much they collectively know and understand different migrant communities. Some teams, likely those that have migrants on their team or who have engaged in these communities before, will be well equipped to discuss what different religions believe and how we’re all the same in many ways. For many, the maturity of understanding will be really low. It could signal that some cultural training is needed in your business to help support staff to know and understand each other and the New Zealand market. In the weeks that come, this is a more medium-term action that your team should consider taking. 

For now though, lead with love, compassion and kindness. We wish all the best to all businesses coming together this week to celebrate unity in a time where some have tried to divide us. With much aroha and condolences: Kia Kaha Kiwis.

This was written by Rosie Collins, who heads up the Step Changers team. Step Changers is a registered charity working to make great corporate social responsibility normal in New Zealand. Visit its website stepchangers.org.

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