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  • Writer's pictureJohn Longhurst

MDS Canada returning to Cape Breton

Volunteers needed for Hurricane Fiona repair

Winnipeg, MB – Roman Heuft’s heart broke earlier this year when he saw how so many people in Cape Breton are still struggling after Hurricane Fiona struck last fall.


Although thousands of fallen trees were cleaned up by Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers after the hurricane struck, and some roofs were patched or tarped, the organization was unable to do more before winter came.


“Many of these people are not well off, and some are elderly or have health issues,” said Heuft, who is the Cape Breton Response Organizer for MDS Canada.


Many live in what are called “company homes,” houses built many years ago by coal companies in the region and passed down through families after the mines closed.


Although the mines are gone, the people remain. Those who depend on pensions are struggling to make ends meet, while others face unemployment, Heuft noted.


“Things were hard enough for these folks before Fiona struck, but the storm caused heart-breaking damage,” he said.


“Most of those whose homes were damaged do not have the resources for repairs. They now live in houses with leaking roofs, wet insulation, collapsed ceilings and mold,” he said, adding “there is still so much need.”

For that reason, MDS Canada is going back to Cape Breton, starting in late March. Already 14 homes are lined up for repairs, with more likely to come.


“It’s not only an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who need our help, it’s also a chance to visit a beautiful part of Canada,” Heuft said.


For Lynne McCarron, Executive Director of United Way Cape Breton, MDS’s return is very good news.


“Words cannot express how happy I am that MDS is coming back to help our communities in Cape Breton,” she said.


“This hurricane has significantly impacted our community, affecting our vulnerable residents the most.”


The United Way, which partnered with MDS last fall, is doing what it can to help those impacted by the hurricane. “But we have limited resources,” McCarron said. “That’s why MDS is so important.”


Since MDS left last December, “we haven’t been able to do anything to provide the help that vulnerable residents need to rebuild their homes. It feels like I am letting them down,” she said.


Now that MDS is coming back, “I feel like I am no longer alone,” she said.


For her, “the expertise of MDS gives me comfort that not only will these homes be repaired properly, but I can trust the quality of their work and know that these homes will be safe and dry.”


MDS, she exclaimed, “is my guardian angel!”


People who want to volunteer for a week or longer can contact Clara Flores at cflores@mds.org Subsidies are available to assist with travel. More information at https://mds.org/response/glace-bay-cape-breton-island-nova-scotia/

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