South River res­i­dent on disas­ter’s front line

Eileen Mccann vol­un­teers with Red Cross flood re­sponse in Man­i­toba


At the end of June, Red Cross vol­un­teer Eileen McCann of South River re­turned from a two-and-a-halfweek de­ploy­ment to Man­i­toba, where she helped fam­i­lies forced to evac­u­ate their homes since flood­ing be­gan this spring.

Ac­cord­ing to the Red Cross, an un­prece­dented surge of wa­ter across mul­ti­ple river basins and ma­jor lakes, com­bined with se­vere rain and wind storms, caused flood­ing through­out many parts of south­ern Man­i­toba, lead­ing to the evac­u­a­tion of over 6,000 peo­ple.

McCann spent the first week help­ing in Win­nipeg.

She then vol­un­teered in Bran­don, reg­is­ter­ing evac­u­ated fam­i­lies, dis­tribut­ing cleanup kits and food vouch­ers, as well as con­duct­ing re­cov­ery as­sess­ment to help fam­i­lies get back on their feet.

The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple evac­u­ated moved in with rel­a­tives, while oth­ers were placed in ho­tels, at the ex­pense of the Man­i­toba gov­ern­ment, McCann said.

See­ing dev­as­ta­tion first-hand

While driv­ing to Bran­don, McCann saw the dev­as­ta­tion first­hand.

“ You see a lot of ponds, but then you’re told that they’re not ponds, that they’re farm­ers’ fields that have been flooded,” she said.

“And com­ing into Bran­don off the TCH, you’re met with moun­tains of sand­bags that have been put there to cre­ate a bar­rier to hold back the wa­ter close to the ramp.”

Many homes, roads and other in­fra­struc­ture have also been dam­aged by flood wa­ter, she said.

Peo­ple left deal­ing with the af­ter­math of the flood­ing were al­ways grate­ful to see the fa­mil­iar site of a Red Cross vest and ve­hi­cle, McCann said.

“One evac­uee said to me, ‘ We know we are all right when we see the Red Cross van com­ing.’”

The peo­ple of Man­i­toba also pitched in and helped with the reg­is­tra­tion process, she said.

“One lady broke down and cried af­ter the last fam­ily was reg­is­tered. She turned to me and said, ‘Now, it’s real.’ Her home was, in fact, one of the homes on the evac­u­a­tion list,

and she her­self had to move out.”

Re­silient peo­ple

While the Red Cross man­date is to pro­vide food, cloth­ing and shel­ter, McCann said she and other vol­un­teers checked to see if there were other ways they could help the flood vic­tims.

The peo­ple, who she refers to as “re­silient,” were very grate­ful for that, she said.

“A fam­ily may be able to move back into their home, but they may have mould in the base­ment. So, we can re­fer them to an agency that can take out the mould or we can pro­vide mould spray,” she said.

The Red Cross was ac­tive in over 40 com­mu­ni­ties through­out Man­i­toba. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the Red Cross is com­mit­ted to help­ing all fam­i­lies re­cover from the disas­ter.

McCann is a re­tired so­cial worker with East­ern Health. She left her hus­band, two chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren be­hind to vol­un­teer in Man­i­toba.

She be­lieves in the Red Cross and in lend­ing a hand to help oth­ers, whether in your own home­town, an­other prov­ince, or the other side of the world.

Not about pay­cheque

McCann en­cour­ages oth­ers to vol­un­teer, par­tic­u­larly re­tirees.

“Our lives can’t al­ways be about a pay­cheque. At some point, we have to give back, or or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Red Cross will not sur­vive. And when you do vol­un­teer, you get this won­der­ful sense of ac­com­plish­ment. You feel good know­ing that you’re help­ing oth­ers, and that’s what the Red Cross is all about,” she said.

Anna Power, man­ager of op­er­a­tions with the Red Cross in New­found­land and Labrador, said eight Red Cross vol­un­teers from across the prov­ince were de­ployed to as­sist with the dis­as­ters in Al­berta and Man­i­toba.

These vol­un­teers bring a high en­ergy level and disas­ter man­age­ment ex­per­tise to any com­mu­nity im­pacted by a disas­ter, Power said.

The de­ploy­ments also pro­vide the vol­un­teers with great ex­pe­ri­ence as they con­tinue to build their lead­er­ship skills which, in turn, strengthen the teams here at home, she said.

“ We are so very proud of our vol­un­teers — their em­pa­thy, com­mit­ment and ex­per­tise cre­ate a solid foun­da­tion for Red Cross disas­ter man­age­ment in New­found­land and

Labrador,” Power said.

Con­crete bar­ri­ers and sand­bags line the high­way lead­ing into Bran­don, Man­i­toba. Ad­vanc­ing wa­ter lev­els from the river threaten to flood the main road­ways lead­ing into Bran­don.

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