A Leamington woman who has traveled frequently to disaster situations in an attempt to help arrived in Abbotsford BC on Thursday, an area inundated by floods that left countless people homeless.
Teal Bollyen is Chaplain Coordinator for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada. She is working at a 250-person shelter in Abbotsford that offers support, counseling and other assistance.
It is roughly his 10th trip as part of the Christian group’s Rapid Response Team in similar disaster situations, having also worked with casualties in Ottawa, Prince Edward Island, Fort McMurray and the interior of British Columbia during fires. Bollyen was also deployed to Toronto after a deadly shooting in 2018.
There is a lot of anguish
“I do it because people matter and when I am in a crisis I want to join people and help them deal with that crisis as soon as possible,” he said.
“I have been through difficult times in my own life, not a flood or a fire. But I’ve learned that just having friends or strangers with you, giving a hug, or asking ‘how are you?’ you can make a difference in the world. I want to be there for people when they are in so much pain. “
Bollyen, 47, said Saturday that he could stay in Abbotsford for up to three weeks, depending on the severity of the flooding and victim assistance efforts.
“Most of what I have seen (at the shelter) are many families that have been displaced,” he said. “There is a lot of anguish.
“There is a wide variety of people coming in. Some gentlemen from Mexico came to town to do some shopping and while they were here the road was flooded and washed up and they cannot go home. He has others who are elderly and their apartments have been flooded. You have all kinds of different people. There is a lot of insecurity among everyone about what life will be like for them in the future. “
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Bollyen noted that the Salvation Army was stationed at the shelter to help with food. Meanwhile, some displaced residents tried to put on a happy face despite the crisis, and musicians have even made appearances at the shelter.
“So there is some joy,” he said. “I just try to do a wellness check, see how people are doing spiritually, mentally or emotionally. Sometimes I just sit with them even if they don’t want to talk, but it might make me feel better with my presence. “
But more rain and storms are forecast in the coming days in the Abbotsford area. Roads have to be rebuilt and a dam built, he said.
“This could still go south, so we could be here longer,” Bollyen said. “We will be here for as long as you need.”