The hardest part of being a volunteer – LJ Henshell

LJ is still determined to keep helping the Canadian Red Cross.
LJ is still determined to keep helping the Canadian Red Cross.

LJ is still determined to keep helping the Canadian Red Cross.
LJ is still determined to keep helping the Canadian Red Cross.

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Lynda Henshell has been a Canadian Red Cross Disaster Management (DM) volunteer for four years now, “I started my training and work with the organization at the Belleville, Ontario Branch. When I moved back to Thunder Bay it wasn’t long before I transferred to the Thunder Bay Branch, where I was sent on additional training allowing me to be more useful to the branch as well as be able to travel to other places such as Dryden, Fort Francis, Slave Lake and Calgary, Alberta to name a few”. she was also attended an additional special training exercise in Southern Ontario where she was placed in a main leadership role having to manage and relocate shelters in various towns. “It was quite the experience and I learned so much from this exercise that I was able to bring back to Thunder Bay”. Lynda has participated in assisting evacuees being hosted in Thunder Bay for the past three years, as well as working with Red Cross in numerous positions during the Thunder Bay flood. This is the first year she have been unable to participate in the Red Cross helping the evacuee’s being hosted here.

For almost a year Lynda Henshell has been recovering and doing rehabilitation for injuries received in a highway accident while in Calgary, Alberta where she was one of many Red Cross volunteer helping during the flood last summer. The accident caused a severe concussion, loss of hearing, nerve damage and Post-Concussion Syndrome.

“I’ve lost my sense of balance, some hearing, my freedom of mobility, memories of events, people and places and the chance to help others. I have a long road ahead still recovery wise and I will most likely need a cane for balance issues, the exercises, and brain retraining are tiring but not the hardest part. The hardest part is being unable to do nothing to help the evacuees while recovering from my accident, being told to take care of myself for now when I am so used to helping others”.

Most Red Cross DM volunteers are very dedicated to the Disaster Management Program, so when an event occurs and they are called upon they will come to help whatever the situation may be. It’s in the blood to take action and do the work that needs to be done, no matter what that may be.

“The hardest part is knowing that you have the needed training, experience and skills to be working and helping other volunteers as well as the evacuees but having to stand back and do nothing”.

Disaster Management draws in all kinds of volunteers from firemen, police officers, mill workers to human resources and office workers, it is a very eclectic group of good natured people willing to give their time to strangers in need. Not participating in this year’s evacuation also meant missing out on seeing friends you sometimes go years without meeting up with face to face again. Facebook, skype, txting and email are often used to keep in contact with other volunteers from around Canada, but it’s not the same as seeing someone in person.
“There were quite a few people I met up with in Calgary from various places that were asking about me, unfortunately I haven’t gotten the chance to meet up with anyone yet”.

While working under certain conditions, involving long hours, shared accommodations friendships and bonds are made. “When you’re working that closely with someone for long periods of times you usually end up with a new friend,” even volunteers from abroad and the American Red Cross can be found in the mix, “last year I met a guy who was an actor here in Canada from Germany who was very cool.”

Lynda hasn’t stopped volunteering for the Thunder Bay Red Cross completely; she is involved in the planning of this year’s Red Cross Wal-Mart fundraising campaign held in August. The proceeds go to Thunder Bay Disaster Management program and last year’s fundraiser was a great success landing Thunder Bay in the number one spot for the most money raised in Ontario.

“I think we’re all very proud of that achievement, the Cashiers at Wal-Mart work very hard during the campaign and they definitely deserve the credit”. This year the Thunder Bay Red Cross hopes to do as well as last year and is already planning and creating ideas for this year.

Lynda also hopes to go back to doing personal disaster assistance (PDA) work in August, PDA is when the Red Cross assists with incidents such as house fires, home evacuations and home flooding. They provide seventy-two hours of assistance with shelter, food and sometimes clothing while the person or family is waiting to contact insurance or whomever can help them. “I’ve learned a lot of patience in the last year waiting for appointments, test results etc. which I think will only benefit me while doing PDA work”.

Lynda is still undergoing testing to determine the extent of the damage the accident in Calgary caused, her chances for a full recovery right now look bleak. She now permanently needs to use a cane for balance, she uses a Rasta theme quad cane, has been attending physiotherapy for the last six months, is waiting to see a neurologist and endocrinologist and will be attending a Neurological Day program to increase her chance at a stronger recovery.