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American Red Crosser comes home to help fellow Canadians affected by Alberta fires

Guest post by Kara Kelly, American Red Cross

Deploying to assist the Canadian Red Cross response to the Alberta wildfires wasn’t an option for American Red Cross volunteer Louise Vande Wiele, she had to be there. Vande Wiele, a native Canadian, said she practically begged her Heart of Tennessee Red Cross chapter to put her on the list to deploy.

Red Cross volunteer Louise Vande Wiele in Alberta“This is [my] home and my people are Millwrights, which is a union here in Canada, and they work in Fort McMurray,” said Vande Wiele. “It was really important to me that I come and help because it’s their livelihood. It’s their homes.”

Vande Wiele’s niece was among the more than 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and surrounding areas forced to leave their homes in search of safety. Since May 1, the unrelenting fires have destroyed approximately 2,400 homes and buildings and devastated more than 500,000 acres. 

“My niece and her husband lost their home during the fire, so now they’re just waiting for everything to calm down so they can get back,” she said, pictured left at her desk in the Edmonton Expo Center. “I am so touched that so many Americans wanted to come up and help us.”

More than 50 American Red Cross disaster responders are working across Alberta helping to support the Canadian Red Cross with the relief effort. Vande Wiele is part of team working at the Edmonton Expo Center, where she and her team talk with evacuees one-on-one to see how the Red Cross can help.

“We see people who have lost everything, people who have lost nothing, people who evacuated twice because they were sent back by their companies because everything seemed to be safe and then the winds changed,” Vande Wiele said. 

Thanks to the generous outpouring of support from Canadians, the Red Cross will provide financial assistance totaling $50 million to the people displaced by the Alberta wildfires.

“A lot of cases [we see at the Expo Center] are people who really haven’t received their funds yet,” Vane Wiele said. “What’s really nice is that people are actually coming and thanking us once they get [money]. We’re also seeing people who want to return money because they got paid too much and that’s really, really good.”

“I still consider myself very much a Canadian and very much an American, so it’s kind of like my two worlds came together,” she said. “The Red Cross is all about being one Red Cross, and it’s good to see that we can make it happen as a team and as a family.”

For more information about the wildfires and find out how to get help, visit redcross.ca/albertafiresinfo.
 
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