FORT MCMURRAY FIRE RESPONSE
A wildfire that has been burning in Western Canada for weeks has spread with exceptional severity. The Alberta Government declared a state of emergency on May 1 and required mandatory evacuation of Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and the Fort McMurray First Nations communities. Fort McMurray was in the direct path of the fire, and the entire town, with a population of 80,000, was displaced. It is amongst the worst fire disasters in Canadian history.
Currently we are in Edmonton, Alberta, deployed in response to the devastating Fort McMurray fire and supporting more evacuated children and families every day. We’re pleased to say that in additional to providing essential materials and supplies for families with babies and young children, Save the Children is operating multiple Child Friendly Spaces in Edmonton. The largest centres for evacuees in Edmonton are in the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan University, and we have Child Friendly Spaces in both places. U of A is housing approximately 1,000 people while Grant MacEwan is providing a home to close to 500 evacuees. We focus on ensuring the safety and protection of children, and we continue to assess the situation on the ground and will adapt our response as appropriate.
The Child Friendly Space is the calling card of Save the Children’s emergency response programming. These spaces serve critical needs for children and families after disasters. The structured, supervised activities offer comfort to children whose daily routines have been disrupted. Routines assist with children developing their coping mechanisms, and strengthen their resiliency. They also give kids a sense of normalcy and community, when everything familiar has been disrupted and potentially lost. Safe, designated areas allow children to play, socialize, and express themselves under the supervision of caring, trained adults. They also provide kids with the opportunity to begin their recovery process by working through their emotions.