Anna Kiefte of Wolfville, who volunteers as a disaster training instructor locally, got to use her background recently in order to aid those impacted by flooding in Alberta. - Submitted
By Wendy Elliott
“I was aware of the situation, but the images I saw were new and the enormity of it grabs you. There were thousands displaced,” said Wolfville resident Anna Kiefte.
The disaster management volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross used the full scope of her training while in Alberta recently. After volunteering initially at a flood-related call centre in Dartmouth, Kiefte left in late June to spend three weeks assisting others.
Deployed for a week in Calgary to train new volunteers to aid those affected by the floods, she later spent two weeks going door to door in High River.
When Kiefte arrived in the ravaged community, it was three or four weeks after the initial flooding. Once in the community, she immediately noted the smell of mould, walking into neighbourhoods caked in mud.
“You think of the impact on these people’s lives and homes. There was still lots of debris. I even saw a railway track that had been corkscrewed by the water.”
Kiefte recalled one home where the sliding door essentially allowed the river to run through the first floor of the house.
“It was random. Two doors down, there would be a house with no impact at all. It was really incredible.” Possessions were set outdoors to dry and many full refrigerators and freezers were taped up, waiting for a front-end loader to collect them.
As a field assessor, she talked to flood victims on their doorsteps, asking whether their needs were being met. Information getting out was often inconsistent, Kiefte said.
Others teams of volunteers, like Samaritan’s Purse, were there helping, too. They encountered householders who were “far more resilience than they expected to be,” she said.
“The dust and the smell of mud and mould will be with me forever. It was very remarkably dirty and muddy.”
Red Cross volunteers look to help because of their orientation in the organization’s values, she said. The needs Kiefte confronted were staggering at times and complex. People had to find new homes. They were grieving.
Some, she said, were prepared to dig in and stay. Others wanted to relocate and, still more, felt sentenced to remain because no one would be prepared to buy their damaged houses. After the initial shock of evacuation, Kiefte explained, the next stage in a disaster is finding normalcy.
The physics instructor at Acadia University found her time in Alberta both fulfilling and humbling. She said it made her reflect upon the importance of possessions.
Since returning to Wolfville, Kiefte says she has thought about “how much the actual place/space/contents of a home are a part of a person's sense of 'home', as compared to how the other aspects of one's life and identity and relationships are connected to one's sense of home.”
A person's sense of resilience “seems to be most connected to finding some sense of normalcy and reconnecting with their relationships and other aspects of 'home’,” she said.
“I was glad to have the opportunity to help people.”
Red Cross in Kings
Anna Kiefte is a member of the emergency response team on Acadia’s campus and one of about 20 trained volunteers across Kings County.
There are several staff members working out of the Kentville branch, which is located at 10 Pelton Drive. They operate programs for health equipment loans, swimming and water safety and foster partnerships in case of an emergency.
The Red Cross has approximately 1,000 volunteers it can draw on from Atlantic Canada.