Making a difference on the front line

By: Jack McCaskill, Red Cross volunteer from Victoria, B.C.
 
Red Cross volunteer Jack McCaskill helped respond to the wildfires in British Columbia in 2017. Here, he shares his experiences as a front line volunteer, and how volunteering has developed his skillset:

When I stepped out of the plane in Prince George, I smelled the smoke in the air and was eager to lend assistance any way that I could. Upon arriving at the Red Cross office, I was told I would be assisting clients with registering at the reception centre.
 
Canadian Red Cross Jack McCaskill leaning against a pillar in front of a sign that says Volunteer & Staff Sign InAdmittedly, I felt a bit overwhelmed when the registration centre opened and the room began filling with people who were evacuated from their homes, but also resolve.
 
When the first couple approached my table and began explaining their situation, it truly hit me. The thousands of British Columbians affected by the wildfires were not just a number in a news article, but each had their own story and unique circumstance.
 
The experienced volunteer who sat next to me, however, was able to ease the clients’ concerns while also coaching me through the registration process. A few hours later, I was competent enough to begin assisting clients on my own. Until the day was over, I felt a growing sense of confidence and satisfaction from being able to assist those experiencing such difficulty.
 
This changed the next morning, when one of the first groups I spoke to included a father and daughter from adjacent ranches. They were strong and resilient, but I was stunned as they explained the challenges that their family was facing. All I wanted to do was help - but it was more than I could do alone. Fortunately, I was able to draw on the capability and experience of the Red Cross team and together we were able to provide the support they needed to begin recovering.
 
Later that afternoon as we were leaving, a person who our team was able to help stopped and put their hand on my shoulder. With tears welling in their eyes, the person said a heartfelt, “thank you.” To me, that made coming to Prince George with the Red Cross worth it.


Helpers of all kinds make a difference every day with the Canadian Red Cross. Learn how you can be that someone at redcross.ca/someone.


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