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Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre and Red Cross partner to assist Indigenous people impacted by fires

The Fort McMurray area is home to almost 90,000 people. Each of them has their own experience and story after May’s wildfires tore through the region. That’s why Red Cross case workers continue to meet with families and individuals to talk through their personal needs and find effective ways to assist. Reaching those people means working alongside community groups like the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre. The Canadian Red Cross is partnering with the Centre to help connect with aboriginal residents.

“Our members sometimes feel a little bit marginalized and not as comfortable when they’re in a setting where they’re a minority,” says Friendship Centre President Bill Loutitt.

Red Cross case workers are at the Centre regularly to meet with people impacted by the fire.

“It’s allowed them to open up, and get to a lot of issues they have on their minds,” says Loutitt.

The Centre in downtown Fort Mac offers programs and services for the aboriginal community, while also working to strengthen relationships with non-aboriginal people.

As residents returned to their city, the Red Cross was also able to assist the Friendship Centre with National Aboriginal Day celebrations in June, and again with a Canada Day parade entry that helped bring the community together.

“We realized that the Friendship Centre had to be a welcoming centre for the aboriginal people coming back,” says Loutitt.

He says it’s important for local Metis and Indigenous people to know they have access to the same relief and recovery assistance that others in the community are receiving.

“Red Cross was right there by our side, helping us!” says Loutitt. “They were able to set up in [the Centre] and had the cleaning kits, and access for all the members coming back to be able to talk.”
That talking will continue in the days and months to come as the Red Cross works to help people recover in Fort McMurray.
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