The Salvation Army has responded to disasters in Canada for more than a century. While the scale of devastation may vary with each event, the willingness of volunteers to help and the ability of communities to bounce back remains constant.
That’s exactly what Glenn van Gulik, divisional secretary for public relations, Ontario Central East Division of The Salvation Army, experienced once again while helping support communities in eastern and central Canada impacted by the spring floods.
In Ottawa’s western neighbourhoods for example – the same areas that were hit by floods in 2017 – more than 330 people had contributed more than 6,300 hours of volunteer service by May 20.
“Exhaustion is not even a word that can describe how people are feeling now; it’s tough slogging,” says Mr. van Gulik, adding that teams operating from the organization’s mobile kitchens and canteens have provided meals, hot drinks, water and snacks, while its emotional and spiritual care teams supported residents and first responders.
“We realize we need to be the strength in these communities. The Salvation Army Red Shield is a source of stability and hope for people; we know that it is our responsibility, and we take it very seriously,” he says.
Serving meals is part of building relationships in the community, says Mr. van Gulik.
“We see the same members of the community every day, we know them by name and we share the experience of how they are feeling. They understand we are there with them and we’re not leaving. We are there to walk alongside and journey through this experience with them,” he adds.
Responding to disasters like the spring floods is an important part of The Salvation Army’s mandate, says Perron Goodyear, territorial director of emergency disaster services for The Salvation Army in Canada.
The organization works with many of society’s most vulnerable people, and it is crucial to ensure their needs are top of mind in a disaster or emergency, he says, adding that marginalized people tend to be more severely affected by disasters than those who have access to more resources.
The Salvation Army is a founding member of the Emergency Management NGOs Consortium of Canada, which helps co-ordinate responses at the national level.
“Even before a disaster happens, we are talking about what each of our capabilities are, what our capacities are, so that we know who’s going to do what on the ground and also how we can support one another,” explains Mr. Goodyear.
Training for emergency response volunteers – from basic to the leadership level – is consistent throughout North America, he says, which enables teams from Canada to provide support in the U.S. and for U.S teams to deploy in Canada if necessary.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.