BC communities in the last mile: No community or individual is too far

Last week, I accompanied the Canadian Red Cross outreach team as they were visiting First Nation communities affected by the BC Wildfires and was reminded that no community or individual is too far to be reached.

As I get out of the car, after an hour’s drive down a gravel road, I am shocked to see the blanket of smoke covering Esk’etemc First Nation – it is so thick you can taste it.

“This isn’t even bad,” says one of the residents. “Today is actually a good day.”

There are fires still raging across the province and there is one that is only 10 kilometers from the Esk’etemc First Nation. Some of their elders have still not returned from being trapped south when the evacuation took place, and residents are afraid they might be forced to evacuate again soon.

“It’s scary, but we’ll get through this,” the resident tells me. “We always do.”

Some of the communities we visit, including Esk’etemc, are in very rural areas, with limited access to internet and cell service.

The goal of the visits is to ensure that these individuals are getting the support and assistance they need from the Red Cross. This is done through one-on-one conversations with a caseworker to determine the immediate and unmet needs of each individual.

Usually, internet and cell phone service is required to provide these services, so the team has to get creative. Using the Band office internet we are able to access client files in the database to validate identification, as well as utilize Skype to call and activate payment cards.

“We were so happy to hear the Red Cross was coming to see us,” another resident says. “It’s been hard for us to get any assistance out here, so we are glad to see you.”

When disasters strike the Canadian Red Cross is there to help those that need us most. No community or individual is too far for us to reach with assistance – this is the last mile. 

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