Local team is helping with cleaning, rebuilding and spiritual care.
By Jessica Peters
Samaritan’s Purse Canada is one of many organizations of volunteers and staff who mobilized to help Abbotsford and other flooded communities last year.
They arrived quickly in town, helping out at the evacuation centre at Tradex. But they also brought in a specially equipped disaster response unit, which they used as a command centre to help individuals who had been evacuated from their homes.
That was operated at Northview Community Church, helping to give guidance to those who wanted to help but didn’t know how.
The organization’s response units are tractor-trailers outfitted with disaster-recovery equipment including generators, pumps, hand tools, and safety gear for volunteers. They trained volunteers who were then dispatched around Sumas Prairie to help with the massive job of cleaning up.
And the organization is still in Abbotsford, as well as Merritt, which also experienced devastating flooding.
Kandy White is one of two recovery specialists still working in Abbotsford, helping people with long-term recovery, including navigating bureaucratic red tape, connecting people with supports and continuing to help with cleanup.
“I get to help in whatever way is needed,” White said. “We build the bridge to the long-term recovery.”
White has lived in Abbotsford for two decades and is dedicated to finding ways to help people, no matter where they are in their rebuilding process. She has one year left with her current role with Samaritan’s Purse.
“There isn’t a short-term fix,” she said. “You can’t expect to come in and expect things to be better in a year, or even two years. Samaritan’s Purse is there to walk alongside individuals who have been impacted by the disaster and to support them with whatever they need.”
Just this month, someone called her and said they were finally ready to go meet with the Red Cross, and wanted her to go with them for support.
“There are people who have slipped through the cracks, or that maybe were missed, or just weren’t ready to reach out,” she said. “Everybody is moving at a different pace.”
White is getting calls and emails every day from people who are still looking to connect, or maybe need additional help as time goes on.
And they’re doing a bit of outreach, too.
They have helped facilitate presentations at Semá:th elementary school for parents and teachers focusing on mental health training.
Children in the area are going through mental health issues along with their parents and teachers, White said.
Giving staff and parents the tools to help their children will go a long way to healing.
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of,” she said.