19 May Kate Churchill – A safe pair of hands
Through the safe hands of Kate Churchill, Victim Support’s Contact Service have transitioned seamlessly from working together in the same office to support each other from their individual bubbles during lockdown, all the while providing the first line of support for victims 24/7
With a background in pastoral care and chaplaincy, Kate joined Victim Support in 2014 out of a genuine desire to help others.
Providing the first line of support for victims, acting as the central contact point for Police referrals and liaising with Support Workers in the field, Victim Support’s Contact Service connects those affected by crime and trauma with the right support in their moment of need.
Kate is the Team Leader for a team of 14 staff who operate on a roster around the clock, 7 days a week to answer some 130,000 phone calls every year.
“I wanted to be someone who makes a difference. I wanted to work for an organisation that had at its heart a mission to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Kate.
She sees the role of Contact Service as one of putting people who call at ease. Often these people are at the lowest point of their lives. Kate knows that they immediately need to feel safe and connected to somebody who can help them.
“It takes a special person to be able to connect with a person straightaway and lighten their load during their time of need. The team all have unique gifts to offer and I see my role as one of supporting them to develop their emotional resilience, to enable them to do their job while bringing out those gifts,” say Kate.
“Being on the phone requires an ability to work that little bit harder to build rapport with the caller. Listening is vitally important. I genuinely believe that you can tell if a person is smiling if you listen carefully to their voice. So if you present empathy through your posture and a positive facial expression, this flows through to the person on the other line and even though they can’t see you, hopefully they can hear you smile.”
Kate takes a very hands-on approach to supporting her team. Not only does she take calls, but she also ensures she is in close contact with her team to offer guidance and support.
The resilience of the team has been put to the test over the past year, as they faced considerable challenges, working with victims of the Christchurch terror attacks, the White Island eruption, and most recently, providing a 24/7 response to those affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The abrupt move to remote working due to the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown posed a huge challenge for this close-knit team, but one they took in their stride.
“This COVID-19 situation brings a new and unique set of challenges as it’s something that affects each of us professionally and personally. Like many people at Victim Support, we realise how resilient we are when faced with big challenges,” says Kate.
For a team that provides a high degree of support for each other working together in the same office, the changes associated with the lockdown in removing that network of support meant they had to adjust their approach to develop new ways of working as a team from their individual bubbles at home. For Kate, this brought changes to how she supported her team.
“When we’re working together as a team in the same physical space, we can keep track of what’s happening. Since we’ve been working from home, I have been calling staff and checking in with them when they’re on shift. I keep in close contact with them all by email,” says Kate.
From group messaging to individual phone calls and Zoom meetings, quizzes, crosswords and weekly Wednesday jokes, the team have found new ways to stay connected and support each other as they worked in isolation.
“We are looking forward to getting back altogether in a physical sense. I am proud of how we have all risen to the challenge of working in our new normal, but our old normal is vitally important in the support that we provide each other as a team. There will be new learnings that we will transfer back when we return to normal and this will make us even stronger as a team.”
Like everyone in Aotearoa at the moment the team are unsure how long they will need to operate under this ‘new normal’. In Kate’s safe pair of hands, this close-knit team know that when they do come out of this, they will be stronger than ever for victims because they are stronger together as a team.