Reflections from Canadian Red Crossers in North Carolina

The Canadian Red Cross has sent operations and communications personnel to support the American Red Cross response to Hurricane Florence. Below are reflections from three Canadians based in Wilmington, NC.

Jennifer Schoenberger, Edmonton, AB

Everyone has been welcoming and so grateful to see the Canadian Red Cross coming into support the Hurricane Florence response. When I was flying into Durham, I was wearing my Canadian Red Cross jacket on the plane. A woman asked if I was with the Canadian Red Cross and what I was going to be doing in North Carolina. I explained that the American Red Cross had sent volunteers to support us in past responses, so we were coming to support them in return. I’ve had more “bless your hearts” since being here than ever before. As soon as people see we’re out in the community, they’re sharing stories about how they’ve been impacted.

When they realize we’re from Canada, they’re just so grateful and surprised that people would travel that far to come help them. It’s been so inspiring to be amongst the community with our American Red Cross brothers and sisters, to fulfill our mission and to feel that sense of unity.

Alana Stilla, Vancouver, BC

I’ve felt very welcomed and valued here in North Carolina. This is my first deployment ever, and I couldn’t ask for a better experience.   I met a few people in this operation who had been deployed to Canada to support past responses. There’s one lady whose name I recognized from the British Columbia Fires response because I put her on the schedule.  Now, we’re working together, just one desk apart.
The Canadian Red Cross has sent operations and communications personnel to support the American Red Cross response to Hurricane Florence.I’ve learned so many new things and experienced what it’s like to be on the front lines of an operation. In my day-to-day job with volunteer resources, I’m helping people remotely.  When you’re on a centralized team working in an office, it’s hard to get a sense of the full operation.  Here, I’m helping people face to face, and it’s very rewarding. For the staff services team, the personnel that are supporting this operation are our clients. When you can troubleshoot a problem they’re having and come to a resolution, it’s a great feeling.  

Overall, being in this work space with all the different teams, part of the hustle and bustle, and part of our group morning meetings, you develop a sense of community. Of course, I can’t complain when they bring in Olive Garden for lunch either.

Nathalie Auclair, Montreal, QC

When my colleague and I started last week, we were travelling from shelter to shelter. We’d meet with volunteers and staff at the shelters who were among the first disaster responders on the ground. Some of them arrived before the hurricane, in the middle of the hurricane, some came in by helicopter. Residents of the most out-risk areas were evacuated preventatively, so these staff and volunteers in the shelters lived through the hurricane with the evacuees.

These early responders were very few in number during these early days, so they not only managed the shelters but also dealt with the effects of the hurricane, including flooding. After the hurricane passed, they had more help coming in, but ten days later, two weeks later, these first volunteers and staff are still there. When you talk to them, they’re so physically exhausted, but are so happy with what they’ve accomplished. It’s so inspiring to talk to them because when they describe their experiences, they have sparkles in their eyes. You can see how well they’ve bonded with each other and in spite of how hard it was – and it was very hard for them – they focus on the good. They just stayed focused on their ultimate goal – to help people – and that made all the difference.

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