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.”
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.