Seraphina Skands seemed to tap into pent up desire to help others.
On Aug. 11, she posted a message on her Facebook page before the forecast heatwave Thursday through Sunday.
HI FRIENDS! *EMERGENCY CALL FOR DONATIONS* Temperatures are going to spike into the high 30s this week. People in the DTES have been displaced by the city from parks, which are some of the only spots in the neighbourhood with decent shade. The neighbourhood is also the hottest in Vancouver. PEOPLE NEED WATER. I’m going to be doing a water bottle run tonight, and have friends in the neighbourhood willing to distribute water throughout the week. PLEASE consider etransfering me (I’m trustworthy I promise). ALL money raised will go towards buying water and ice for DTES residents. Feel free to share this so it can reach more people. Thank you so much!
Skands, a 27-year-old legal assistant in Langley thought she’d get a few friends and acquaintances pitching in a few dollars so she could take some supplies to a vulnerable population she met while doing her masters degree.
“It was pretty amazing,” she said of the response. “I didn’t think that there would be that much.”
With the donations, she and three others were able to deliver a big load of bottled water to the Downtown Eastside as well as granola bars, electrolyte packages and ice. Another 700 bottles of water were given to the Gateway of Hope in Langley for distribution.
“I knew another heatwave was coming in,” she explained. “I know they’re hard pressed to have water down there and cool spaces” in Vancouver’s Eastside.
The COVID pandemic and June heatwave helped expose systemic issues for residents in Canada’s poorest zip code. Skands said many of the residents must live in buildings that get dangerously hot. The city of Vancouver was closing parks and public spaces to the homeless, leaving them without some of the few places where they could find shade from the intense sun.
When doing her university studies, she came to know organizations working on the DTES day in and day out, and was able to use those connections to help distribute the supplies.
“Especially with extreme weather, there’s such a large need for things” she said. “The organizations down there are always looking for help and donations.”
She was helped by Aaron Bailey, a friend doing university research in the DTES who also helped her connect with other organizations, her pal, Amelia Copeland a local occupational therapist, and her brother, Bram Skands, a university student.
Skands said it’s easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about others struggling or in need. But a couple of factors came into play. One was that people, having lived through the June heatwave, realized how difficult it was for them and how much worse it would be for disadvantaged people. And Facebook post seemed to touch people with its simplicity: “When it’s something as clear as it’s hot and people need water, okay, that’s something I could do” they may have thought.
Skands provided an update after delivering the supplies.
THANK YOU SO MUCH! I’m sorry I haven’t reached out personally to everyone who has offered to help and donated yet, but the response yesterday was overwhelming. Your donations were enough to buy 1,440 bottles of water, 30 4L bottles, +600 packages of electrolytes, 120 granola bars, bags of ice, and cooler bags. If you’re wondering, that’s enough water to fill the bed of an F150 TO THE BRIM. Donations were made to the SRO Collaborative, TORO, the Drinkers Lounge, OPS, and Pacific Oak Clinic. All these places were emphatically thankful for your donations and said the water is SO needed! There is enough money left over to make a donation to outreach services in both Langley and Surrey. Thank you so incredibly much to all of these organizations for doing the labour involved in handing these out and keeping people safe. Please look into these organizations if you would like to make further donations. They all do AMAZING organizing and are the boots on the ground every day.
Skands said she’s always volunteered when she’s seen a need and expect that will continue in the future in whatever form that takes.
“I could definitely see myself roping everyone back in to helping again, once our backs recover,” she chuckled.
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