Since the spring, volunteers from across Canada have been traveling to Monte Lake, B.C. to help some of the families who lost their homes in last year’s massive White Rock Lake wildfire.
The effort is being coordinated by Mennonite Disaster Service.
The charity is building four homes for North Okanagan fire victims, three in Monte Lake and one near Vernon, in less than six months.
The volunteer construction workers are making new houses possible for people who thought they wouldn’t be able to rebuild.
For Monte Lake resident, Dustan Eager it’s a bit surreal to see a new home for his family under construction.
After they lost their house last summer, with only partial insurance coverage, it didn’t look like they would be able to rebuild.
Eager said without the Mennonite Disaster Service the family of five likely couldn’t have stayed in Monte Lake.
“We probably would have ended up selling and having to move to somewhere that we could afford, because, right now, with the cost of everything we couldn’t have done it any other way,” Eager said.
Volunteer project coordinator, John Sawatzky, said the charity, which regularly rebuilds homes for people impacted by natural disasters in the U.S. and Canada, came in at the request of the local community.
Residents in need of help applied for assistance with their rebuilds.
“We are looking for a real need…and that they do not have the ability on their own to recover. Usually, we work for people that are under-insured or uninsured all together so they have no way of raising the finances to rebuild a house,” Sawatzky said.
Property owners contribute what they can and skilled trades people are hired to do the more technical tasks, but the basic construction and finishing will all done by hundreds of volunteers who are coming from other parts of Canada, and sometimes from the U.S., to help.
“It is just a joy to work here and to help out. To see the hope coming back into people’s lives is more than enough reward for me. I just look forward to the day that I can watch them move into their new home,” Sawatzky said.
Eager’s family is looking forward to that too.
The father of three says even watching the rebuild is giving his kids stability.
“They are extremely excited. When the crews are done at the end of the day they want to sneak up and have a look. They already knew which bedrooms were their’s downstairs and were already making plans,” Eager said.
The plan is to be finished construction by the end of October.
For Eager’s family, after more than a year of temporarily living situations, it would mean alot to be back home this winter.
“[It would be the] best Christmas ever,” said Eager, wiping away a tear.
“It would just be absolutely amazing.”
The project is still looking for more volunteers to take part. More details can be found on the Mennonite Disaster Service website.
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