The Canadian Red Cross is beginning work to help Fort Simpson recover from this year’s flooding. Assistance will range from help acquiring financial aid to supports for mental health.
Sean Whelly, the mayor of Fort Simpson, said Red Cross officials came to the village last week to gather information about the community’s needs following floods that ruined many homes in May.
Former Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation chief Gerald Antoine first announced the collaboration in June. At the time, Antoine said the help would boost residents’ wellness and help them plan for the future.
“We need to share the experiences and knowledge that people here have gone through and we have to give them an opportunity to engage in conversations with someone or an organization … that also have experiences and knowledge,” he said.
“We need to discuss together how we could start having a conversation and creating a plan to move forward.”
The Red Cross told Cabin Radio to direct inquiries about the project to the Village of Fort Simpson.
Whelly said mental health supports provided by the Red Cross can extend beyond the anguish caused by flooding to challenges like trauma from residential schools and the pandemic.
“I think it’ll just make people more resilient, be able to adjust their own issues and take care of themselves,” he said. “It’s not that we want to be reliant on outside people to fix us, but we need a kickstart to help get us rolling.
“We’d like to start addressing some of those root causes, help people work on things for themselves, and identify resources they can utilize in their own journey to better health and wellness.
“Recognizing the issue is one thing but then actively doing something about it is where we want to be. We want to do the nuts-and-bolts work, meeting with people to help that, at whatever level they’re at.”
Whelly said an assessment of the community’s mental health needs, potentially involving a survey, will help to identify the kinds of help required
“To me it’s like we’re doing clay pottery right now,” he said. “It’s about molding something as we plan on how to best address some of the issues here.”
According to Whelly, a psychological first aid class will be offered by the Red Cross. That course will help to identify the stresses and triggers of everyday life and coping mechanisms.
He said some community members will be trained to deliver that course to other residents.
Residents can also access help applying for disaster assistance if they have not yet done so.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross will assist in revamping the community’s emergency plan. Fort Simpson residents have expressed concern about the potential for roads to be cut off in a wildfire or future flood.
“We’re reviewing what happened during the floods … and how we might do better if we have an emergency next spring, or a fire emergency.” the mayor said.
“That was something the village committed to in the aftermath of the floods. While we got through it, we knew there were things that perhaps we could have done better.
“It’s about making a stronger, healthier community for everybody.”