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“What I needed most were some helping hands and some heads to help me figure out what to do and when to do it.”

Linda Clarke of High River, Alberta, is a disaster survivor. Like many of her neighbors, her home suffered extensive damage last June when the river overflowed and left much of the town underwater. She was uncertain where to turn and what to do to get her life back to normal. And she wasn’t alone.

“People in Alberta aren’t used to being the ones who ask for things,” said World Renew Senior Case Manager Sarah Bruinsma.

“They are used to being givers; they aren’t used to receiving. We are there to help them understand that they deserve assistance and that we can be the link for them to resources they need.”

This is the first time World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) has employed a case manager like Bruinsma as part of its response to North American disasters.

World Renew sent a team of volunteers to High River in September to go door-to-door assessing unmet needs. Through local media they encouraged people to call or stop by to complete their needs assessment if they missed the volunteers’ visit. A list was compiled of families who needed assistance.

They found that while many people qualified for provincial assistance, insurance, or local social services, they were often unaware of what aid was available to them or how to apply for it. The case manager position was added to help address this issue.

“I work with families by doing anything from assisting them with their Disaster Response Program (DRP) applications, getting them connected with different community resources such as the Red Cross, agencies that can provide them with furniture, or even places they can go for emotional support and counseling,” said Bruinsma.

One of Bruinsma’s main tasks is to talk to people about their financial situation, find out what they have received from the DRP and insurance, and then identify gaps.

“If what they’ve received isn’t sufficient to get them back to where they were, our team will consider connecting them with assistance from our amazing teams of volunteers.”

Bruinsma is also a survivor of the High River flood.

A lifetime resident of High River, Bruinsma’s home was so severely damaged that she wasn’t able to return home until this past February—eight months after the disaster. Because of this history, she is well equipped to empathize with what people are experiencing and help them get the assistance they need.

In a collaborative effort, Bruinsma and her World Renew colleague Stephen Deunk work with case managers from three other organizations—Samaritan’s Purse, Habitat for Humanity, and Mennonite Disaster Services. They meet on a weekly basis to determine which organization can best meet the needs that have been recently identified.

That’s what happened with Linda Clarke. After stopping in at the High River Renewal office to ask for help, she was connected to Bruinsma, who went over Clarke’s case very carefully.

“Sarah was very good,” said Clarke. “She went with me to the office and helped me break down my letter from the DRP and understand what it was that I was able to receive. She really went the extra mile.”

A few weeks later, World Renew volunteers went to Clarke’s home and put down flooring, reinforced floor joists, put up a new garage door and did some painting.

“They were really just wonderful. It didn’t seem to matter what I needed, they were there,” Clarke recalled. “They were very helpful and accommodating and even thought of little things that I didn’t.”

World Renew DRS expects to continue responding in High River for the next two years. They are also continuing to respond to tornadoes in Oklahoma, flooding in Colorado, and several other storms. To learn more or to volunteer, visit World Renew DRS.

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