As often as ADRA Canada talks about the power of the ADRA Network in providing emergency management and development work around the world, the ADRA Network in many ways is a reflection and extension of an even larger network: the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. It’s not only the various ADRA offices in over a hundred countries that make ADRA’s work a success; it’s also the broader church community to creates and drives vision for what serving our communities can look like.
The youth and young adults of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada had cast a vision for what it would mean to really make a difference right at home. Their vision: to work for the betterment of people’s lives in ways that were responsive to their actual needs. From this vision sprang up a goal: to do something to help Indigenous people in a tangible, practical, and non-manipulative way that fostered true connection and friendship.
Beginning on August 10, 2023, four groups of young Adventist volunteers travelled to various Indigenous communities in northern Ontario – Lac Seul First Nation, Pikangikum First Nation, Whitesand First Nation, and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation.
ADRA’s own longstanding relationship with the partner organization on the ground, the Independent First Nations Alliance (IFNA) allowed these groups to partner alongside Indigenous people to do meaningful and practical work on fire prevention and fire safety – a topic close at heart for many Canadians after a year of unexpectedly large wildfires. Alongside ADRA Canada’s former national programs manager, Daniel Saugh, and our digital fundraising and social media strategist Randy Sidaoui – both of whom accompanied the group in Whitesand – the teams of Adventist young adults served the needs and projects that mattered on these reserves.
Sidaoui described the experience:
“Our primary goal was to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous communities, working on vital fire prevention, protection, and recovery assistance. This was also an opportunity to learn from Indigenous people about their valuable and storied land preservation techniques. Our enthusiastic team helped to install fire alarms in houses that didn’t have any and cleared dry brush and other debris from a fire guard.”
The teams also checked previously installed fire alarms to ensure they were all still working, and did various tasks as needed to support the local workers: cleaning the trucks and firehall, numbering and updating information on houses in the area to enhance the efficiency of disaster response, and providing meals to the workers as a gesture of friendship.
Prior to working alongside people from these nations, the team members were all given sensitization training and were encouraged to take the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training program that was created by the First Nations University and made available through the Canadian Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Indigenous ministries. These training resources ensured that interactions between Canadian volunteers and Indigenous people were as respectful and amicable as possible.
Again from Sidaoui’s perspective: “It was an incredible journey where we met amazing and welcoming people. So many of the young people we met care so deeply for their community and work so hard to protect the people around them. One of them said, If we don’t protect our community, who else will? It was a real blessing and a mind-opening experience to be among them for a week, sharing meals with them and participating in one of their traditional ceremonies. The best parts of this experience were the warm welcome we received in the community and the chance to forge what we hope become new lifelong friendships.
You can hear more about ADRA Canada and IFNA’s work in fire prevention in this episode of the ADRA Insider Podcast: https://adrainsider.podbean.com/e/canadian-wildfire-response/