Nearly two years after flooding devastated the town of High River, Alta., World Renew, the relief and development ministry of the Christian Reformed Church, wrapped up its work there. As the work finished in September, World Renew project manager Henry Visscher said, “It is all about relationships being built while working together daily in a client’s home, giving them renewed hope.”
On June 19, 2013, flood waters caused the whole town of 13,000 to be evacuated for over a week The river rose so quickly that people had to flee their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
Shortly after the flood, Rev. Paul Droogers, pastor of High River CRC at the time, and World Renew case manager Al Brander met with representatives from Mennonite Central Committee, Habitat for Humanity, and Samaritan’s Purse to assess the needs.
“The initial meeting was very helpful to establishing the needs of the community,” Visscher said. “The Town of High River allowed case workers hired by World Renew to conduct interviews door to door to identify what the needs were.” The assessment included personal needs, household needs, and home repair projects. Those who met the requirements of special needs were placed on a list of those to be helped.
The Town of High River assisted volunteers with accommodations in trailers that were set up for displaced flood victims the first year. Later, a home with a beautiful view of the mountains was loaned to them with an additional trailer on the same location, accommodating 18 to 22 people.
A total of 29 teams came from all over Canada and the U.S. for two to three weeks at a time. Three World Renew staff, a construction coordinator, and two case managers helped manage the recovery process. Ron Willett, director of World Renew’s disaster response in North America, said that 430 volunteers, all wearing the distinctive disaster response green shirts, donated 32,500 hours of work.
“Forty-one homes had reconstruction of basements, drywall, [and] repairs to kitchens and interiors. Two homes were completely rebuilt,” he said. “In addition, 315 families were helped with mold clean up, roofing, [and] concrete issues, while others were also helped through the systems to receive help from insurances and government agencies.” Recovery work was supported by donations from churches and individuals across North America and by grants from the Canadian Red Cross and the Town of High River.
Visscher said the highlights were the joy of volunteers excited to help repair homes and the connection between the volunteers and the clients. He described it as a ministry of presence.