By Andrew Hopkins and Alexandra Fraser

Angelo Leo, a Canadian Red Cross humanitarian from Vancouver, has helped people impacted by disasters and emergencies as far away as Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Philippines“The stress and anguish (people) go through, especially right after a disaster, and the emotional toll it takes to recover or deal with the situation – it affects everyone,” says Angelo Leo. 

The Canadian Red Cross humanitarian from Vancouver has helped people impacted by disasters and emergencies as far away as Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. But this summer, he volunteered to help much closer to home. Leo is part of the Red Cross Safety and Well-being team and he went to Williams Lake to help people work through the trauma left behind by the massive wildfires that swept across much of British Columbia.

Wherever he offers humanitarian support, the challenges are often very different, but there are definite similarities. “The support needed is universal,” says Leo.

Leo spent 20 years as a community mental health nurse, which helped prepare him for the work he now does with the Red Cross. He has spent much of his life supporting adults and children through traumatic events, and setting up psychosocial programs to assist.

Internationally, in situations like the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan and Nepal after the 2015 earthquake, his work involves encouraging kids to be kids - through art and play therapy that assists their emotional recovery. With adults, he can provide trauma support and gender-based violence prevention programming.

But whether in Canada or across the world, sometimes he feels his most important role is just being there. “That physical presence of another person being there is significant, so they know they’re not dealing with a tragedy alone. We help with their suffering and rebuild resilience in people,” says Leo.

Even if we can’t be physically present for those impacted by disasters, we can still help. A recent Ipsos survey for the Canadian Red Cross finds that after witnessing numerous disasters in Canada and around the world over the past year, 63% of Canadians feel compelled to donate to charity or volunteer their time over the holidays. 44% of Canadians would like to help people in need in Canada, as well as other parts of the world.

A donation to the Canadian Red Cross this holiday season can support the efforts of skilled humanitarians like Angelo Leo, both in Canada and abroad. From Nov. 23 to Dec. 25, Aviva Canada will match your gift and double the impact up to a maximum of $30,000.

To learn more about the Canadian Red Cross holiday giving campaign and the impacts you could make, visit www.redcross.ca/perfectgifts.