Helping people survive a disaster part of job for Red Cross volunteer in Weyburn

Lending a hand to individuals or families who experience small or large disasters is all part of the job for Red Cross volunteer Wanda Miller.

The Weyburn resident has been volunteering for the agency for the last 20 years, and even during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been able to find ways to respond to people in need when they experience disasters like a fire or a flood.

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This is National Volunteer Week in Canada, running from April 18-24, and Miller spoke about her passion for being a volunteer as well as why she enjoys providing her time and skills to the Canadian Red Cross.

Part of her role with the Red Cross has been to recruit volunteers for the organization for communities in southeast Saskatchewan, providing training for them, as well as responding to small and large disasters.

“If someone has a fire or a flood in their home, I would respond on behalf of the Red Cross. They have a program that will provide support for individuals for the first 72 hours, so people will have time to get back on their feet,” said Miller.

The Red Cross also responds to larger disasters, such as from flooding, fires, large storms or other similar disasters.

“If there’s something happening in Canada, we are all trained to respond to any kind of disaster in any province or area of Canada,” she said, noting she has responded to flooding in the Fort MacMurray area, fires in B.C., as well as fires and floods in Saskatchewan.

“Since COVID hit, we’re doing a lot of virtual responses,” added Miller, noting she’s able to hook people up with resources as well as making arrangements online for people, such as for a hotel room.

In some ways, this works even better than in person, she said, because she is able to respond to anywhere in Canada, and doing it virtually keeps both her and the disaster victim safe from the virus.

“Right now, we have people living in hotels for a two-week time because they can’t self-isolate at home,” said Miller. “We call to see if there’s anything they need. I don’t have to be out in the specific city they’re in, I can do this from my kitchen table.”

She has retired from her position with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, so Miller finds she has a lot more time she can devote to helping people through the Red Cross.

“I can be as busy as I want to be right now,” she said, adding some of her responses have been to help indigenous people across Canada. “I could respond to a community in Ontario or Quebec or here in Saskatchewan.”

What she enjoys most about her volunteer position is the ability to help people, particularly those experiencing an emergency situation.

“That’s always been something I’ve wanted to be involved in,” said Miller.

She added that being a volunteer is a part of giving back to the community, and has been a part of her life no matter where she’s lived in the province.

“It makes me feel good knowing I can help people,” she said, noting she is one of some 13,000 volunteers across Canada for the Red Cross.

People needing help call the Red Cross’s 1-800 number, or are referred by a police or fire department or other community agencies.

Besides herself, there are several volunteers around the area, such as in Weyburn, Estevan, Carlyle and Radville.

“We have wonderful volunteers in various capacities,” she said, adding that this has also been a way for her skills and abilities to be put to use now that she’s retired.