On the Saturday after the Calgary flood, I signed up to the (then) fledgling YYCHelps.ca as a volunteer.
On the Monday after the flood, our family returned home, cleaned out the fridge and took stock of what we could offer.

Our first stop was our Community Center.  We asked, “what is needed?”

Lysol wipes.

Also, food for volunteers on New Street.

Load baby in car, head to store.  Done.   That was within the realm of how we could help right then.

Upon delivering the food to the volunteers, only 30 minutes later, needs had already changed.  No power and a hot day meant food would go bad.  Volunteers weren’t actually as hungry as people thought.

On Tuesday, after seeing needs repeated on Twitter, I once again took stock, “How can I help out?  With child in tow?”  I stopped at the local church to offer my child-watching services.  I stopped back at the community center ask, “what else is needed?”  Both times nothing was needed.

I left somewhat disappointed.  Knowing that much was still needed.  But not where, when or how – or whether needs via social media had been met, had changed.  I was frozen in both wanting to help & not knowing how.  I took shelter in the fact that I could simply ask again, at another time.

Centralized.  Decentralized.  Distributed.  All approaches to offering help.  The human urge to choose one over the other is fascinating.  Coordination over immediate action.  Effectiveness over efficiency.  Jump-in vs. volun-told.

As life resumes to normal, we will synthesis and critique.

In the quest to understand what model works the best, let us not forget that it is the simple asking, “what is needed?” and the practice of repeating the question that will continue to spur our community engagement and human connections.

Originally posted at: Trico Charitable Foundation

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