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Insights from my first time on the ground helping others

By Melinna Mills

At the beginning of September, I had the opportunity to travel to Prince George, B.C. in response to the B.C. Wildfires as a Communications Responder. During my time there, I had a chance to experience, support, and learn about the operations of a disaster response for the first time. If I had to describe my deployment experience in two words I’d say: eye-opening and fulfilling. Here are three insights that best capture my deployment experience:

Ye Fan and Janis Brown, Canadian Red Cross volunteersDedicated Volunteers

An overwhelming observation throughout my time in Prince George was the number of volunteers serving. From supervisors to caseworkers, this disaster response would not be possible without our volunteers. On three different occasions, I was able to visit community outreach teams to see our work in action. From the volunteers’ day starting at 7am, to driving two hours to remote communities, to ending their day around 6pm. The consistency in their hardworking, positive, and caring attitudes was incredible to see.

Meet Meaghan Doner, a Safety and Wellbeing Volunteer I met during a community outreach in Prince George, she played an important role in supporting the psychological wellbeing of individuals and families impacted by the wildfires:

Gratitude from impacted communities

While on the road driving to an impacted community, I passed a billboard that read, “Pray For Rain”. Being from central Canada, I’m not directly impacted by this disaster, so it’s hard to fully comprehend how vast the impact is on peoples’ lives. This experience has allowed me to better understand that impact. The reality is that peoples’ lives are in a state of limbo while on evacuation, they have no choice but to pack up and leave their home and jobs.

Kenny Leung, a Canadian Red Cross caseworkerKenny Leung, a Canadian Red Cross Caseworker, pictured left, recalls the state of individuals impacted,
“People are really affected by the fire, they were away from home for more than two weeks. They really need support as they are isolated.”

During my day in the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nations community, I helped on the frontline assisting caseworkers. While talking to beneficiaries, so much gratitude and appreciation was expressed for the Canadian Red Cross and for those who have donated to the BC Wildfires Appeal.

Each community welcomed us like family, including preparing meals for us throughout the day. It was amazing to see how we were able to serve the community, and in return, how the community served us in total gratitude.

Making a difference

Ye Fan and Lisa Donahoe, Canadian Red Cross caseworkersOverall, my first deployment was a great experience; I was able to witness the undeniable difference the Canadian Red Cross is making for those impacted. By working with provincial and local governments and Indigenous leaders, we can provide early recovery support for individuals and families who were evacuated.

Through in-person assessments by community outreach teams, impacted individuals and families are heard, cared for, and given peace of mind with financial assistance to support their basic needs.
More than that, it is also mental wellness support in relieving stress through guidance with an ear to listen and a hand to hold during this traumatic event.
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