American Red Cross

American Red Cross

Staff Care & Resilience


Case Study: Tsunami Recovery Program / Staff Wellness Support

Objective: In December 2004, millions of people from Southeast Asia to East Africa experienced one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the American Red Cross (ARC) played an integral role in the recovery effort.  In fact, the Tsunami Recovery Program (TRP) was one of the largest international humanitarian responses in the history of the ARC.   The physical and emotional demands of designing, implementing and managing a response and recovery program of this magnitude affected staff across the organization.  Stressors related to the scope and demands of such an effort were compounded by working closely with survivors, dealing with the uncertainty of insecure environments, working across cultures and handling the significant challenges of managing the recovery programs in vulnerable communities.

The ARC engaged with the KonTerra Group to help support the overall wellbeing of their staff, understanding that relief and development workers in this high-stress environment would need specialized support.

Solution: When the ARC first began conversations with the KonTerra group, we were able to draw on experiences with organizations in similar circumstances. To its credit, ARC understood that achieving maximum impact demanded attention not only to individual stress management and wellbeing, but also to complementary work on organizational and managerial learning, plus implementation of effective staff care policies and practices.

The KonTerra Group quickly designed a customized suite of services to support ARC delegations in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives.  Services designed and delivered for ARC included:

  • Consultation with organizational leaders, as well as delegation leaders from each country mission, to understand the impact on staff and need for support
  • Specialized evaluations and surveys with staff to identify areas where focused support was needed
  • Contextualized trainings to staff both in DC and at mission locations
  • Individual wellness consultations with staff in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives
  • A full debrief with ARC-TRP headquarter staff including a summary report and recommendations for ARC

Result: The interventions designed by KonTerra helped the ARC not only address staff needs in the wake of this specific circumstance, but also laid the groundwork for ongoing staff support strategies within the organization.  ARC’s recognition of challenges facing its employees and its decisive investments in employee mental health and resilience positions the organization well for ongoing success.

 [Read a related feature here. The article profile’s Nancy Good’s work on secondary trauma following the 2004 Asian tsunami.]