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Manitoba teens spend spring break rebuilding flood-ravaged Princeton homes

Volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Services express gratitude for the chance to make a difference
Twelve young volunteers from Manitoba, with Mennonite Disaster Services, are in Princeton this week helping to clean up and rebuild homes. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

A dozen very fresh faces arrived in Princeton last weekend, volunteers with Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS), to help with the town’s flood recovery.

Twelve members of a youth group, from a Winnipeg Mennonite congregation, gave up a week of their spring school break to rebuild houses in the flood devastated community, supervised by five church leaders. They range in age from 15 to 19.

“I felt really called,” said Lizzie Rochon, 17.

“I saw it a lot on the news and we talked about it a lot in our family.”

Rochon acknowledged she has no construction experience.

“I’m prepared to learn a lot. I’m prepared to do whatever.”

With a smile, she added that seeing British Columbia’s mountainous beauty is a great treat.

“I’m here because I like helping people and I really didn’t have anything better to do on my spring break,” said Shane Duff, also 17.

“I want to hear people’s stories, and I want to learn to help people with more than just words. I want to make a difference.”

Monday morning, one of the first assignments for the young crew members was to crawl into flooded basements, remove debris and preparing the spaces for insulation.

Brian Causte is the Meeting Mennonite Brethren Church youth pastor.

He said the group made the decision to come to Princeton in January, and the trip took about six weeks to organize.

He described this week as “a blessing” for the young people in his charge, to be able to provide service.

Mennonite Disaster Services has been a cornerstone of flood recovery in Princeton since volunteers arrived in early December 2021.

“I cannot express how thankful I am to the MDS, and all their amazing volunteers who are in our community, for their help,” said Mayor Spencer Coyne in a March 2 interview. “Without their efforts it would be hard to think of where we would be in our recovery.

“‘Thank you’ does not seem like adequate enough words to express just how grateful we all are.”

MDS volunteers pay their own travel costs, and receive lodging and food when they arrive on scene. In Princeton they are housed at Rock Ridge Canyon, and generally come for one week at a time.

Some of the same people answered the call in Williams Lake, after the 2018 wildfire, and following the flood in Grand Forks in 2019. The group also responds to international crises, especially hurricanes and tornado events in the United States.

While the labour is free, generally homeowners pay for materials.

However there are also MDS funds available for especially vulnerable people, for example people without insurance, the elderly, and those without financial means to recover.

Related: Mennonite group helps Princeton flood victims rebuild

Related: ‘It’s just unbelievable’: Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth tours Princeton flood

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Tim Gerbrandt, 17, prepares a crawlspace for insulation. (Andrea DeMeer photo)

Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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