Last month, Tai, a housekeeper with United Way’s Better at Home initiative in Ashcroft, BC, stepped out from her mobile home in Boston Flats for a short trip to purchase groceries.
What unfolded during next hour was a nightmare beyond her imagining.
“When I left to return home I was told that the highway was already closed,” recounts Tai. “There I was, without my cellphone, stranded. I had no way of getting back. No way to get to my dogs. It was awful.”
That afternoon, Tai lost her home and all of her possessions to the wildfires that swept through Ashcroft and the surrounding areas.
“One of the only items I managed to find was my grandmother’s wedding ring,” says Tai. “When I picked it up I thought, ‘Here I am. Holding everything that I have accumulated in my sixty-nine years.’ It was a very funny feeling.”
Tai was not the only one to lose their home that day. The rest of her neighbours suffered tremendous losses, including her brother and his family, and one of her clients, an eighty-nine year old man, who is now living with his ninety year-old sister.
“One family, a retired husband and wife, lost their mobile, their travel trailer, their pick up, and their car. They lost everything.”
Tai counts herself luckier, as one of her neighbours managed to save her dogs and she has an old motor home that she is able to live out of during this continued time of uncertainty.
“Every time I start to feel for myself, I just reach down and pet the dogs,” she says. “I don’t know what I would do if they were gone.”
Through it all, her work with Better at Home has helped provide a sense of normalcy to her day-to-day.
“I can go to work and it helps me,” she says. “I can kick into what’s normal. I know ‘Here is how I clean. Here is how I can help.’ I leave thinking that I’ve made a difference.”
She also describes the strength of character she has seen in many of the seniors for whom she works.
In all, she is focused on keeping strong and helping others.
“If I can do anything, it’s to talk about how great [the Better at Home] program is, and how satisfying it is, and how much it means to me. That’s all I need right now.
“It’s one of my little windows, because the rest of the time I’m processing. I know this too shall pass, but I hope that Better at Home will never, ever pass.”
Throughout this terrible season of wildfires, United Way is doing what we do best – supporting and building communities. In the affected communities, United Way has been there providing on the ground support like food, hygiene products, gas cards and cleaning supplies.
With the United for BC Wildfires fund, United Way will be there for the long haul to invest in the intricate web of agencies needed to deal with the stress, financial burden and other complex social issues that will arise from the fallout of this disaster in the years to come.
Together, we can help rebuild. Please donate to the United for BC Wildfires fund.