Life at Barriere high school returning to normal with Red Cross help

Note: The following appeal is now closed.  You can support our ongoing work by donating to the Canadian Red Cross


From the outside, Barriere Secondary School looks just like any other high school. As the final bell rings, students mill about the parking lot or stand together in small groups, while another group enjoys a pick-up game on the soccer field. On the surface, everything appears quite normal-you can't tell that these youth are dealing with the aftermath of one of the biggest natural disasters in Canadian history.

An out-of-control forest fire raced through this community of 1,000 people in early August, completely destroying over 70 homes, damaging many others, and reducing the area's biggest employer to rubble. Many families are now both homeless and jobless.

In spite of the difficult circumstances, principal Greg Howard sees that most of his students are coping well.  "Kids are being kids again," he says. Howard realized early on, though, that this would not be a normal school year for many students. Besides the trauma of having lost their homes, or seeing their neighbour's homes burned, he sensed that the cost of school fees could pose a financial hardship for families directly impacted by the fire.    

Fortunately, through the generosity of donors, Canadian Red Cross could help. Since early August, dedicated teams of Red Cross personnel have been meeting with families to assess their individual situations and ensure their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter are met. 

"Red Cross typically covers school supplies and fees for individual families affected by disaster who need our assistance," explains Celine Calfa, Red Cross Service Area Manager from Kamloops. "Because of the high level of economic stress being experienced by the entire Barriere community as a result of the disaster, we realized the most expedient, efficient way to meet the need would be to cut one cheque to each school to cover all student fees. This will greatly reduce stress on students, teachers and parents in what has been a very stressful year."

"All the credit goes to Red Cross," Howard says. After receiving the call, Howard and his staff determined the fees that parents would have to pay or students fundraise to collect. The assistance provided by Red Cross to Barriere Secondary School totals $38,000. "Families can now take the money and use it to buy essentials like food."

More than just the financial impact, Howard says the donation from Red Cross will help fire-affected students regain some sense of normalcy. "Without this donation, some kids would have dropped out of school sports-an activity which is a stabilizing factor in their lives right now."