Last June, Catherine Sonpon came home to find her Surrey apartment building surrounded by fire trucks. The rental suite she shared with her young family had been gutted by fire.

“I remember feeling sadness and pain,” said Sonpon. “My family was safe, and material losses are not as important, but I was still sad to lose all our stuff.”

The Sonpon family at a local Walmart store during the campaignAlong with her husband and three kids, aged three years, two years, and three months, Sonpon moved into a hotel with help from the City of Surrey’s Emergency Social Services. But without insurance, she didn’t know where she and her family would end up when the City’s short-term assistance finished.

“You never know when you may need help,” said Sonpon.

That’s when she connected with the Canadian Red Cross. Red Cross volunteers made arrangements with local hotels to house the family in a safe and comfortable room for six weeks. That gave Sonpon and her family enough time to find a new apartment in the city’s challenging rental market.

“The Red Cross was very supportive. They help people in times of need - not just with financial assistance, but they showed us love and support to help us recover from the fire,” said Sonpon. 

The Red Cross provided several $100 Walmart gift cards to help her re-stock some of the food and household items lost in the blaze, and also helped Sonpon’s family buy new mattresses to sleep on in their new home. 

“People usually think of the Red Cross responding to major disasters like an earthquake in other parts of the world,” said Sonpon. “We didn’t even know they help people in Surrey recover from smaller disasters like our apartment fire.”

Sonpon is now back to work with her husband at their Surrey hair salon, helping her family adjust to a new normal in their new home. She’s grateful to the community for its support through the challenging days that followed the fire.

Every three hours, the Canadian Red Cross responds to disasters, big and small in Canada. Until March 24, Walmart stores throughout the country will be raising funds for the Red Cross to be able to continue providing assistance to individuals and families like Sonpon’s in your community during times of disaster. Visit a store near you to donate to help families when a disaster strikes.