CPIT student drives Canterbury community recovery
Deon Swiggs, Founder of Rebuild Christchurch knows better than anyone that life is about the little things for the Christchurch community; A simple explanation of an EQC update, a helping hand to shovel silt or the resources to pack up and move while repair work is being carried out. These are just some of the ‘little things’ that Rebuild Christchurch has assisted people with since the first earthquakes in September 2010.
The current CPIT Applied Management student started rebuildchristchurch.co.nz two days after the September 4 earthquake as a way to share earthquake experiences. He has now developed the Rebuild Christchurch Foundation and become the face of earthquake recovery at a community level all while continuing his CPIT studies. “Community engagement and involvement is essential to the recovery process,” he says.
In the days following the first major earthquake, Deon quickly identified a public need to have all relevant information available in one place. He established relationships with key groups including EQC and the Christchurch City Council to ensure that the community was kept well informed.
“My philosophy is that information is the key to understanding, which in turn lowers anxiety. This is even more essential in a disaster situation,” he says. “It’s about bringing people hope,” Deon says.
The website became instrumental to the Christchurch community following the February 22 earthquake. It soon became Deon’s full-time job after he became one of many to be affected by redundancies. “I’ve been through the same thing as a lot of people but I took it as an opportunity to turn my focus to the website and really get Rebuild Christchurch off the ground,” he says.
As the website increased in popularity Deon launched the Rebuild Christchurch Foundation to handle donations which had started to pour in from around the globe. “It was so exciting to have the funds to really start doing things out in the community. We have had a lot of international assistance, most recently from a group in Japan. It is very humbling,” he says.
The first Rebuild Christchurch project ‘Let’s Get It Done’ kicked off in September 2011.Volunteers gathered to help people with essential tasks that needed doing around their properties. “We cleared driveways, made temporary fixes to houses, and I even personally drove around to check on residents who had no family in the city,” Deon says.
Since then the Rebuild Christchurch Foundation has donated Christmas gifts to families disadvantaged by the earthquake and has plans in place for several more ‘Let’s Get It Done’ events. Packing assistance is being developed for families who need to move out of their damaged houses and Deon is working with project managers to document key building projects on the Rebuild Christchurch website.
Deon’s idea has been a huge success. When asked why he thinks this is, he puts it simply: “We are people focussed. We say it like it is and we go out and we get it done.”