By Gurpreet Somal
“That’s the moment I’ll never forget. When I first met the people I would be helping.”
Every act of kindness begins with a single step. In this world, what better than our own neighbourhood, to step out and start making a difference?
This is true for Robert Yost, an emergency management volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross. Originally from Cranbrook, B.C., Robert lived in many cities like Calgary and Montreal, before moving back to his hometown during the pandemic. Working with an agency, he teaches digital literacy to minority groups. Last spring, when Robert came across a post seeking volunteers to help during emergencies, he decided to apply to the Canadian Red Cross.
“During the Alberta floods, I’d been part of a few rebuilding efforts. Standing by my community in tough times and personal growth have always been my biggest motivations. Here was my chance to do this as a Red Cross volunteer in B.C.,” he says.
From Virtual Training to Ground Realities
Pandemic restrictions meant that most of Robert’s training with the Red Cross took place online.
He recalls, “While my decision began with the hope to help, this training surprised me by giving me new confidence in my abilities. These were some very engaging sessions and meaningful interactions! I have used this knowledge to prepare my loved ones for any unexpected emergencies, so that I can focus on helping impacted people within the larger community.”
Since his training, Robert has responded to two house fires in the region.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect! What if I don’t have the information they need or I’m unable to help? In an emergency, people naturally have questions about when they’d be able to return home and access certain resources.
“Thankfully, the Red Cross team is very experienced and guided me throughout the process. It felt good to respond without hesitation, and to support those evacuated households.”
Robert mentions, “Something most people don’t think about is what happens to those who must leave their homes after an evacuation? What would their mental state be? I remember the way the teams thoughtfully gave folks the space they needed in those moments. It meant a lot to those people, to have a place where they could rest, collect their thoughts, and come to terms with what they had just gone through.”
Reflecting on how things have changed within the past year, he remarks, “Now when I hear about emergencies on the news, it feels very different. Volunteering has shifted the way I look at the world and the part I play in helping.”
“Today, I have a better understanding of the kind of support the Red Cross provides during bigger disasters like floods and fires and smaller emergencies like a house fire or gas leak. Besides developing new skills, I know how to correctly support people or where to go if I have just 10 minutes or less to evacuate!”
He looks forward to joining the Red Cross team in Vancouver to help displaced people arriving to Canada from Ukraine.
“In an ideal world, I wish that there were no emergencies and disasters that would impact people’s lives or cause them grief. But what’s encouraging in the face of a crisis, is the ability to show up and help. It feels good to support people on some of their roughest days when they need us.
“It’s all about the choices we make. Anyone could become a volunteer – you should simply have the will, the ability to listen and stay calm in a crisis, and to empathize with the people you support.”
“B.C. has had a tough couple of years and there is the possibility of floods and wildfires this year as well. Like many others, this worries me too. What will the coming months bring, and who might be affected? We’re in this together as a community. That’s why volunteering with the Red Cross is important to me. I’m ready to respond if and when the time comes.”
Would you like to join 13,000+ volunteers at the Canadian Red Cross? Discover more opportunities here.