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“It helped out a lot.”
In May 2016, a fire damaged Jason Grant’s Winnipeg apartment building and he was forced to leave his home. "Basically, I had nowhere to stay," says Grant.
After initially staying at a shelter, Grant was told by an acquaintance about the Canadian Red Cross Personal Disaster Assistance program, which provides immediate help to people dealing with small disasters such as flooding damage and house fires. Grant reached out to the Red Cross and, he says, "They called me back right away."
The Canadian Red Cross Winnipeg Personal Disaster Assistance team quickly dispatched volunteers to meet with Grant and get him the help he needed. Right away, the team provided him with a Grocery Pack with food and put him up for a couple of days in a hotel. The volunteers also provided a gift certificate to get clothes and essentials from Walmart.
"It helped out a lot," Grant says of the help the Red Cross volunteers provided. "That was great. I really appreciated it."
"A safe place to have my baby."
“When I came and met the head midwife, and saw all the equipment, I realized that this was a safe place to have my baby,” Ma Bu Cha says, hugging her seven-month-old daughter. She had her first three children at home.
San Mya Yee has been head midwife in Sin Tet MawI, a village in central Rakhine, for 10 years now. She moves easily among her patients, smiling and sharing a joke. Her motherly warmth makes everyone feel safe and welcome.
Health staff are trained in maternal and infant health and in safe delivery, but the clinic also provides primary health-care services to the wider community.
“This year we received a new delivery room and medical equipment. Word went around about our services, and more people came to the clinic,” says San Mya Yee. She glances over at the women talking together as they play with one another’s babies, and she smiles.
"I think next year, with more improvements, even more will come."
During challenging days
A house on the river in a small, picturesque community sounds like the perfect place for a retired couple to settle. Sandra and Gordon Killins thought so too, and six years ago relocated to Clarence-Rockland, Ontario.
Like many of the town’s residents, the Killins live along the Ottawa River. This spring, when the river reached its highest level in decades, more than 140 families had to leave their homes due to severe flooding. Sandra and Gordon were forced to evacuate for about two weeks. The water level was so high that their entire house was surrounded, leaving them no way to access it.
While some of their neighbours lost their homes completely, Sandra and Gordon are fortunate that the damage to their house was not that severe. Still, they lost everything in their basement, including furniture, items in storage and their tools.
During these challenging days, Red Cross teams in Clarence-Rockland provided families with Disaster Relief Kits and clean-up supplies as well as financial and emotional support.
"That was most definitely a big help," says Sandra.
"There is no rain and nothing
Holding her youngest daughter with one hand and carrying a 20-litre jerry can full of water with the other, Abebech Ayanu struggles under its weight to make the short walk home.
With drought conditions having shifted from northern Ethiopia to the southern district of Kindo Koysha, where Abebech lives with her family, she does not want to spill a drop of this precious commodity. "The drought has affected my family, my children, my husband. My husband went to work on the road construction as a daily labourer because there is nothing to cultivate. There is no rain and there is nothing to grow,” explains Abebech, as her cattle scour the arid ground for something to eat.
Since late February, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society has been trucking in water to several communities in the district of Kindo Koysha. With only one truck due to limited resources, communities are reached once every four days, sometimes longer. A family of five receives 40 litres of water, which they share with their livestock.
“Sometimes I feel like I would just like to disappear from here so that I don’t see my children suffering,” Abebech says.
"But I just can’t leave them. So, I pray to God to bring better times."
"We didn’t have anything."
A house fire is difficult for anyone, but for the Bilal family it was especially traumatizing as they had only been in Canada a few months. Mohammad, Afraa, their two children, Naya and Nael, and Mohammad’s brother, Ali, arrived in Canada in February as refugees. They fled the war in Syria and spent more than three years in Lebanon before coming to Canada. In July, a fire broke out in the family’s home. Fortunately, no one was injured, but most of what little they did have was destroyed. They were only able to salvage a few household items.
The local Red Cross Personal Disaster Assistance Team was able to provide the family with three nights’ accommodation and an Infant Care Pack with baby products for their youngest child Nael. In addition, thanks to the support of Walmart, the team gave the family vouchers for groceries, hygiene items and clothing.
The family was grateful for the assistance. They didn’t have the means to deal with a personal disaster.
"We didn’t have anything. No clothing, no money," Afraa remembers. "The [Red Cross] help[ed] when [we] needed it."
"Almost too cold to bear."
The snow has thawed in Greece’s Ritsona camp north of Athens, but it’s still wet and cold. The harsh conditions make it difficult for parents trying to eke out a life for their children.
Zeina, a mother of three, collects blankets and mats from the Hellenic Red Cross for her children to play on inside their shelter. She says the snow and sub-zero temperatures have been extremely tough for her kids.
“My children are four, seven and eight years old,” Zeina explains. “They have found it almost too cold to bear. They were stuck inside for days when it snowed and couldn’t go out to play.”
Zeina says she dreams of her family being together again:
"I left my country, deeply affected by war, to reach a safe place. My husband is in Germany and I am trying to reunite with him."
Give A Perfect Gift This Holiday Season!
Aviva Canada will match your donation*!
*Aviva Canada Inc. will match up to a maximum amount of $30,000 in total for donations made by December 25, 2017. Aviva and the Aviva logo are trademarks used under licence by the licensor. These items symbolize products and services that the Red Cross provides in Canada and around the globe; services vary by location. While your inspired gift may not purchase the actual items and services selected during this holiday season, it will help where the need is greatest.