During the first week of June, due to forest fires in Northern Ontario, residents of the Pikangikum First Nation were evacuated from their homes and transported to shelters in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay. With support from the Ontario Conference, ADRA responded to help serve the needs of people who had to flee their homes with very little. A team of volunteers, including two nurses, flew into Thunder Bay from Toronto and then drove the four hours to Sioux Lookout. They were assigned to a centre where they could receive evacuees and do their best to provide people in trauma, with care and the necessities of life. About half of the displaced were children.
After three days in Sioux lookout, the team was asked to spend some time in another shelter that ADRA was supporting in Thunder Bay before returning to Toronto.
Here are their reflections from their five days of volunteer service.
“The trip was truly a rewarding experience. I would do it again. This was truly an experience of people helping people. Every volunteer that I met wanted to be there. The people who were serviced appreciated our helped.”
“I wish I could have stayed longer. I like helping people and I could see the great need there at Sioux Lookout. I can see that [there were] some well-organized teams. I would be willing to go back to help any time.”
“The evacuees were exhausted from travelling. Therefore, making each person feel welcome and loved was a priority. I was privileged to be part of a great team of volunteers who were dedicated to helping to care for each needy family.”
“I agree with all of the above. Disaster preparedness is something that we must encourage in our local churches as well. It would be good if more churches were instructed in how to prepare to meet emergencies because we never know when we might be called upon to help—even in our local towns. With such an army of dedicated first responders rightly trained, I believe that the Ontario Conference will always be ready to help.”
Two of the volunteers that were serving in Thunder Bay shared how they were touched by the children that they worked with. “At first they were very shy”, they said. “But after spending a few days working with them, playing with them, doing crafts with them, they began to warm up. They started to talk to us, smile at us, wanting to take their picture with us.” They said, ‘I want a photo with you because I don’t want to forget you!’ What a wonderful way to show God’s love, to help people at a time when they are in need.”
Organizing tasks in a relief shelter in Thunder Bay