When sudden and unexpected flooding throughout the BC Interior sent numerous First Nations communities into evacuation orders in mid-November of last year, local companies and organizations pitched in to help.
FNHA's regional manager for health emergency management in the Interior, Londea Riffel, attributed this to the “good relationships" built up over many years.
“These organizations connected with me asking if there's anything they can do," she said.
The extreme flooding that began Nov. 14 and went on for several days led to numerous communities being warned, including Merritt and several communities in Nlaka'pamux Nation.
Warnings ranged from evacuation alerts to orders, and individuals found themselves scattered between Kamloops, Kelowna and other parts of the Interior region.
An Emergency Support Service (ESS) centre was set up in Kamloops (and a smaller one in Kelowna) where several families found temporary housing in the Coast Hotel Kamloops. The FNHA rented the conference room at the hotel in order to provide traditional health and mental wellness supports to First Nations evacuees. Additionally, Nlaka'pamus Heath Services had tables set up to provide information about programs and services.
Working alongside Interior Health, FNHA staff had primary care and dental care information, with access to other programs and services.
“With the pandemic, it created further barriers to support," said Riffel. “We had to ensure COVID-19 protocols and safe distancing were being followed, things like that."
On the second day, Riffel said TELUS brought masks and set up an information booth to help people access other services. It was there, on Nov. 25, that TELUS, Save-on-Foods and the FNHA came together to discuss an action plan.
TELUS had $10,000 available and worked with Save-on-Foods to purchase $5,000 worth of at-cost food from the supermarket chain which was delivered in five pick-up trucks. They also donated another $5,000 in the form of $100 food gift cards.
Riffel said that although FNHA, TELUS and Save-on-Foods worked to get the food and gift cards to the communities, Nlaka'pamux Nation handled distribution. distributed it. Communities were able to come to the Coast Hotel and gather food items themselves, while bringing back supplies to others who were not able to attend.
The support didn't stop there. With the devastation left in the wake of the floods, Nlaka'pamux Nation members voiced concerns that many students in their communities were unable to attend their regular classes.
On Dec. 9, TELUS in collaboration with the FNHA, gifted 120 tablets to the children of the Nlaka'pamux Nation to reconnect students to their classes online. This represented 10 tablets for each of the 12 communities in the region.
The Nlaka'pamux Nation thanked TELUS with a blanketing ceremony, led by FNHA Interior Region Nation executive representative and Nlaka'pamux Nation member Ko'waintco Michel.