Individuals and families in the Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton areas who are still dealing with the impacts of the 2017 wildfires now have additional support available to them.
Laurel Scott is a Red Cross family counsellor, and she is now working in the region as part of the Red Cross Community Partnerships program, provided by the Red Cross and Interior Community Services.
She offers free, confidential counselling to individuals or families who were affected by the 2017 wildfires, and who would like a place where they can talk about how the fires affected them, then look at how to build on their strengths to move forward.
“I hear from some people ‘I feel like I should be over this,’” says Scott. “But these things can take some time, as lots of things add up. The first year you’re trying to put things back together, put the community back together. Two years isn’t a long time.”
Scott says she’s also heard from some people that they feel fine most of the time, but then summer comes around, and they don’t go camping because they’re afraid.
“My role is to come from a place of knowing,” says Scott, who has experience of wildfires in Kamloops in 2003 and Lillooet in 2009, when she was evacuated from the community and stayed in Ashcroft. “People are strong and resilient, and they have the resources they need to deal with this. Having a new set of eyes helps in learning to recognize your strengths as a human being.”
Scott says she sits down with people to identify which pieces aren’t together, and then look at how to put them back together.
“I give people a place to look at what’s happening,” she explains. “There are lots of triggers for people, and they have to know what they are. If you breathed in smoke, you’re impacted by the wildfires. If you’re new here, and people tell you that you need to prepare a go-bag, you’re impacted by the wildfires.”
She adds that while people can do some planning for a natural disaster, such as having a go-bag ready, it’s difficult to be mentally prepared.
“We don’t live in a war-torn country. We’re not emotionally prepared for a life-or-death situation all the time.”
Scott says that the Red Cross program is very open. “I can work with pretty much everyone. There’s no limit on who can access the program, whether it’s families together or individuals.” She adds that the program is available to everyone from children and youth to seniors. “I’m hearing that a lot of kids still have anxiety [about the wildfires].”
Those taking part in the program would probably have five to six meetings with Scott. “If down the road they need more then they can call me. Some people take longer than others, and may need additional support.”
Scott is in the area on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and while she is based out of the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society office in Ashcroft, she is available to meet with people wherever they are most comfortable, whether that is in their own homes or elsewhere in the community. She can also meet with people in Kamloops.
“It takes a long time for PTSD to take control, and a long time to get a handle on it,” Scott says. “The communities are still under threat from a natural disaster. It’s not a case of ‘one and done, never going to happen again’. People can talk about anything, and I give them a chance to sort through stuff. If you keep adding to the piles, you get trapped by them. It’s my job to help sort through the piles.”
Scott adds that she also helps people figure out where they want to be and how they can get there. “I have the greatest job in the world, because I tell people that they’re great. I believe people are incredibly strong.
“My role is to give people a space where they can talk. You’re not just suddenly ‘over’ a natural disaster, and you can never have too many caring people in your life.”
To contact Scott for more information or to make an appointment, call Interior Community Services at (250) 376-3660 and ask for Laurel. You can also call or text her directly at (250) 819-7929, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.