Earlier this year a devastating wildfire struck the town of Fort McMurray. The fire spanned 2000 square miles, about 3/4 the size of the State of Delaware) and destroyed 2400 structures, about 10% of the city. It forced more than 80,000 residents to evacuate.
Rotary House Seniors Lodge Evacuates
Included in the evacuation were the 40 residents of the Rotary House Seniors Lodge. They were kept away from their home for over 2 months. When residents returned the Recreation Therapist, Rebecca Osmond, used the Java Music Club peer support group to help facilitate discussion and sharing about their experience. She advised the program has been running weekly for over 2 years at Rotary house and provided “a safe, non-judgemental place” for residents to share.
Rebecca writes; “…the group is very beneficial to our seniors. Java often serves as a place to share our joys as well as our worries and sorrows. Someone wise once told me that shared joy was double joy, and shared sorrow was half sorrow. Java Music Club really embodies that quote for our group.”
After the fire, Cst. Napoleon, Cst. Perry, and Cst. Roberson, of the Wood Buffalo/Fort McMurray Police Department attended the Rotary House to spend time with the residents. The members were invited to join the seniors with the Java Music Club.
The main purpose of the group is to sing while sharing strength, experience and hope to support one another and to have fun. The group sang several songs of home-warming and shared stories of their experiences during the evacuation of the city. It was a big welcome home for the residents!
Rebecca made up some of her own discussion questions about the fire, about how they were all feeling about what they had been through with the evacuation. This provided an opportunity for an open discussion:
“This group (anywhere from 3-10 attendees, depending on the day) really has formed bonds they haven’t had in the past with the others & they pray for each other when need be and express happiness & love for each other.Once we returned and even still now we always have a little tidbit about the fires where we can relate something to the theme we are focusing on.
I think we all learn new coping strategies from one another in the group. It has been a very important time to take time to think and work through any underlying issues we may have as we often forget to do that on our own.”
Congratulations to Rebecca and everyone at Rotary House for helping each other through what must have been a very traumatic experience. There is a lot of rebuilding to be done but we hope the community becomes even stronger as a result.
Here are some inspiring post-fire photographs shared by Rebecca and the Java Music Club group: