In what proved to be a well-timed coincidence, Red Cross volunteer Cheryl Beckett was part of a training exercise last Thursday with the City of Ottawa. Her role was to help set up a mock reception centre. The very next day she would do the same thing but not as part of an exercise this time, as flood waters in Ottawa began to seep into residential areas and many families became unsafe.

Cheryl started with the Disaster Management team in Ottawa in 2015. She picked the Canadian Red Cross to volunteer with because she knew she’d be able to help her community and realized the level of training our volunteers receive. Being prepared for her role has helped Cheryl respond to help residents of the community impacted by personal disasters like house fires, for example, over the past few years.

The residents who she has been seeing at the shelter are often simply looking for emotional support from our volunteers.  Cheryl has met with many affected members of her community who are exhausted and in shock as they begin to process their losses.  While many have friends and family they can stay with, the new realities of moving forward can create anxiety and uncertainty.  Listening to someone as they talk through their emotions is something Cheryl knows is a big part of her role.

Cheryl is proud of the way her team and supervisors have met the needs of the people they are seeing.  Two residents in particular needed emergency lodging and had special needs that meant a shelter stay wasn’t possible for medical reasons. After bringing these residents to the attention of her supervisor, other arrangements were made for them.  While one ended up staying with loved ones after all, Cheryl was glad we could provide this extra level of care for the resident who needed it.

Seeing from the front lines the respect and dignity extended to each person we meet is why Cheryl has committed to helping the people of Ottawa with Canadian Red Cross through the duration of the floods. It is thanks to dedicated volunteers, like Cheryl, that we are able to do the type of work we do when Canadians need us the most. 

Learn more about the flood response in Ontario: where to get help and to donate.