Homes and businesses destroyed, crops eradicated. Schools requisitioned for use as makeshift army barracks and children recruited by warlords. Neighbourhoods torn apart by conflict face an uncertain future. How can they protect their children and heal their shattered communities? Into this darkness a dedicated group steps in with a plan to help, and the technology to bring it to fruition.
With boots on the ground in war zones throughout the world—Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan, to name a few, helping over 575,000 people—the staff of War Child Canada strives to heal the fissures caused by armed conflict. The nonprofit dedicates tireless resources to ensuring these innocent victims of war continue to get an education, have access to justice, and have a chance to build better futures for themselves.
“It could be a current conflict, it could be the situation following a conflict,” says Dara McLeod, War Child Canada’s Executive Director. “Our staff are on the frontlines delivering essential services to those communities.”
For those workers and the staff at their home offices outside Toronto, prioritizing those services to victims of conflict came at the expense of settling for vastly outdated technology that made their jobs less efficient. With the realization that state-of-the-art tools could help them serve war-torn communities more effectively, War Child Canada looked for some help of their own.
The work War Child Canada does, the scale of goodwill they contribute to the world stage, is all the more impressive when you get a glimpse behind the scenes at the technology they employed to make it work: By 2019, their “network” consisted of aged laptops running Windows XP, decentralized file-sharing conducted via email, a server that hadn’t been updated since 2007, and no formal IT department. Interoffice communication was becoming a logistical nightmare, with some of their 300 staff members across seven countries conducting business via text messages and others using WhatsApp or any number of other public platforms.
The inconvenience of outdated technology was one thing. But for an organization doing active work in war zones, helping displaced people who could still be in danger from dangerous factions, the lack of security for their data and documentation was unacceptable.
“Quite frankly, (our system) had just been so neglected for so many years and our only investment was trying to fix issues and just patch things up,” said Richard Corbridge, Chief Operating Officer of War Child Canada. “Our IT security just wasn't there.”
Recognizing the desperate need for upgrades across the board, War Child Canada put out feelers for some tech gurus. They found the right match in another Toronto-area company, RedBit, a software consulting, design, and engineering business. RedBit took immediate stock of their client’s pain points.
“Nonprofits are absolutely the best at trying to find a way to make things work with whatever resources they can,” said Hazel van der Werken, Head of Operations and Customer Success with RedBit. But for War Child, “their technology infrastructure wasn't supporting them. It was not quite fallen apart but was in need of some TLC.”
That need was only further exacerbated by COVID-19, which broke out mere months into War Child’s engagement with RedBit. On top of handling the dire realities of war zones, embedded teams now had to coordinate relief and various programs amid a raging pandemic. Laptops sputtering along with an outdated operating system just weren’t going to cut it.