By: Jack McCaskill, Red Cross volunteer from Victoria
 
When I stepped out of the plane in Prince George I smelled the smoke in the air and was eager to lend assistance any way that I could. Upon arriving at the Red Cross office, I was told I would be assisting clients with registering at the reception center.
 
Admittedly, I felt a bit overwhelmed when the registration center opened and the room began filling with evacuees, but also resolve.
 
When the first couple approached my table and began explaining their situation it truly hit me. The thousands of British Columbians affected by the wildfire were not just a number in a news article, but each had their own story and unique circumstance.
 
The experienced volunteer who sat next to me, however, was able to ease the clients’ concerns while also coaching me through the registration process. A few hours later, I was competent enough to begin assisting clients on my own. Until the day was over, I felt a growing sense of confidence and satisfaction from being able to assist those experiencing such difficulty.
 
This changed the next morning, when one of the first groups I spoke to was a father and daughter from adjacent ranches. They were strong and resilient, but I was stunned as they explained the challenges that their family was facing. All I wanted to do was help - but it was more than I could do alone. Fortunately, I was able to draw on the capability and experience of the Red Cross team and together we were able to provide the support they needed to begin recovering.
 
Later that afternoon, the daughter returned with her brother who had also been subjected to serious adversity, and the Red Cross team and I were also able to assist him, his newborn and pregnant wife. As the daughter of this family left, she stopped and put her hand on my shoulder and with tears welling in her eyes said “thank you.” To me, that made coming to Prince George with the Red Cross worth it.
 
The Canadian Red Cross is fortunate to have a network of trained volunteers like Jack. The Red Cross is continuously recruiting volunteers to assist with disaster responses across the country. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit http://www.redcross.ca/volunteer to search for future opportunities.