“We are thrilled to be a part of giving much-needed hope to the families whose homes we are rebuilding,” said Bob Laarman, director for World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS). “They lost everything, and it’s been a long year for them. It is our hope that our presence in Fort McMurray this summer will be an encouragement to other survivors that there is help available to them to rebuild.”
Some families had insurance and were able to rebuild their homes; others left and have not returned.
"It is our hope that our presence in Fort McMurray this summer will be an encouragement to other survivors that there is help available to them to rebuild.” - Bob Laarman (DRS Director)
Still, there are families without a home. The changing oil economy and other circumstances beyond their control have made it difficult for them to rebuild and return. These are the individuals and families World Renew DRS met with in November 2016 during a needs assessment – and these are the families for whom World Renew DRS volunteers are building homes.
May 2016: Wildfires forced the entire population of Fort McMurray to evacuate as flames threatened and consumed homes, businesses, and wildlife. Residents drove through walls of fire along the roads as they fled the area. World Renew DRS asked for prayer and financial support as the fires blazed. DRS regional managers for Alberta, Henry and Linda Visscher, began to monitor the situation and make plans to connect with the Fort McMurray community and churches.
June to September 2016: Due to the toxic nature of the fire’s remains, professionals trained in handling hazardous materials provided clean-up services in Fort McMurray. Residents began returning to their homes in June to wrestle with what was left of their houses and possessions. DRS staff and volunteers visited Alberta to meet with evacuees and strengthen relationships with local churches and responders.
The provincial government asked World Renew DRS to begin to explore the possibility of completing an unmet needs assessment in the area. DRS connected with representatives of Reformed (RCA) and Christian Reformed (CRC) churches in northern Alberta. They then met with evacuees from Fort McMurray, including Evergreen Community CRC, to discuss their fire-related needs.
World Renew DRS regional managers encouraged the development of a local recovery group, NSUUR. This organization spearheaded the recovery efforts, including providing case workers to ensure that fire survivors were connected to appropriate assistance and resources.
November 2016: World Renew DRS volunteers conducted an unmet needs assessment for NSUUR, supporting Fort McMurray’s underinsured and uninsured fire survivors. DRS volunteers met with and called individuals and families to connect them with resources in Fort McMurray that would meet their needs.
January to May 2017: Throughout the winter, DRS staff and regional managers worked out the details of necessary home reconstruction projects in partnership with NSUUR and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). Weekly conference calls with local and provincial partners kept the actors in close coordination as we planned the response efforts.
June to August 2017: DRS volunteers are completing requested home reconstruction services in partnership with MDS and NSUUR.
September 2017 and beyond: World Renew DRS will continue to seek ways to serve Fort McMurray fire survivors.
Top photo: A new home is being built for a family who lost their home in the 2016 fires.